Nixon, Gloria (2015)

NIXON, Gloria (2015). Rag Darlings. Dolls from the Feedsack Era, Kansas City: Kansas City Star Books. ISBN 13: 978-1611691474, paperback, 96 pp., fully illustrated in colour, short bibliography, Price: US$ 25.59 (€21).

Dolls made of cloth (also called rag dolls) have a long history in the USA. The first European doll on record to reach America came with the Pilgrims in 1620 and was made from wool, linen and cotton. By the opening decade of the 20th century, American manufacturers of products such as grain, coffee, sugar, cereal, soap, and baby food began advertising cloth dolls to sell their products. Customers would receive a doll in exchange for a package coupon, a few cents or box tops. By the 1930s feedsack manufacturers were printing cut-out patterns for dolls on their sacks. At an international exhibition in California in 1935-36, the South Sea sugar brand introduced twenty “Dolls of All Nations” on their sacks. Other dolls, like Jan the Dutch boy and Ileana the Romanian girl were introduced later, for a total of 35. This sacks and dolls are highly collectible in the US.

Recommendation: This is a lavishly illustrated book which reveals the commercial history and contains photographs of more than 250 dolls, fabric panels and doll ephemera, all documented and dated by the historian, Gloria Nixon. It is a fascinating glimpse of social history. This book will be prized especially by collectors, who will be both informed and inspired by the collection. It will also interest anyone interested in feedsack textiles.

Shelley Anderson

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