By Kathy Gregg, administrator of the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum
SPENCER, N.C. — The Spencer Doll and Toy Museum in Spencer, North Carolina, is home to many special toys, dolls and miniatures, but one of the most treasured items is
a very forlorn-looking rag doll. This 14-inch doll is lovingly called the “Sad German Rag Doll” and came to the museum with a story.
When World War II was ending, and the Allied Forces arrived in Germany, many Germans fled from their homes and just left with whatever they could carry on their backs. One young soldier from Rowan County, North Carolina (Salisbury), was checking empty buildings and came to an evacuated building where children of Nazi sympathizers attended primary school. On the floor of one of the classrooms was a doll that had been left behind.
The young soldier carefully placed the doll in his belongings and ultimately brought it home to Salisbury because he knew of a woman who collected dolls. The cloth doll was given to Jesse Edwards Caldwell, who kept a journal of all the dolls in her collection, and she wrote the story of how she acquired the German doll with the sad face.
When Jesse’s doll treasures were donated to the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum in 2012, the journals were an integral part of the collection, and the story of the soldier and the rag doll was written down for all visitors to view.
We do not know the original owner of the doll, nor who made it, but we can guess from the handiwork that a parent made the doll out of scraps of cloth and yarn. Perhaps these scraps were collected during the war and then the doll was given to their beloved child.
Standing a bit over 14 inches tall, the male figure is dressed in coarse, home made clothing consisting of a vest, pants and hat on a balding head of gray hair. The hands are minimally fashioned and the boots are sturdy looking.
The somber-looking face is embroidered with floss or thread and looks as if the doll is thinking of his former child owner, now long in the past.
The Spencer Doll and Toy Museum is located at 108 Fourth Street in Spencer, North Carolina, across the street from the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. or by appointment.
Visit www.spencerdollandtoymuseum.com for admission prices and tour information, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-762-9359.