Speaking of Dolls: After 100 years, Bleuette still attracting new fans

In the doll world, an interest in a specific doll comes and goes. One doll type may capture everyone’s attention for a while and then something else takes its place but Bleuette might be the exception.

The interest in Bleuette has been very strong for over 10 years and while the economy has affected her prices, her desirability to collectors is still very strong.

But why? Why has this little, inexpensive French doll become so sought after by the doll world?

Doll Prices Realized

1. Premier Bleuette, all original, near mint condition $5,300
2. Unis Bleuette, 11 3/8 inches, all original $1,400
3. 24-inch portrait Jumeau fashion, all original $7,500
4. 18-inch Kesnter 164, marked body, redressed, original wig $400
5. 14-inch Hertel Schwab 152 baby, appropriate outfit $235
6. 18-inch SFBJ 301, redressed, original body $425
7. 33-inch SFBJ 301, redressed, original
body $700
8. 33-inch Simon and Halbig 1079,
redressed $850
9. 18-inch Armand Marseille 370, leather body, redressed $85
10. 24-inch flat top china with original body, appropriate clothing $225

In 1905, Bleuette was introduced in France to little girls who bought a subscription to a child’s magazine called “La Semaine de Suzette.” The magazine had been popular with French girls but wanting to increase circulation, the publisher offered a premium that was hard to refuse. Each new subscriber would not only receive a doll but was also promised patterns in each weekly issue of the magazine.

The first Bleuette was produced by the Societe Francaise de Fabrication de Bebes & Jouets (SFBJ) and shared the face mold of the popular open mouthed Tete Jumeau. The heads are not marked “tete Jumeau” but have a “2” or a “1” or both numbers incised. The publisher, Gautier-Languereau, underestimated the popularity of Bleuette and soon had to contact SFBJ for more dolls.

In late 1905, the second series of Bleuette dolls produced by SFBJ became available but these dolls are marked “6/0” and have a more German look. Since the owner of SFBJ was Solomon Fleischmann, a German by birth, it is very possible that these dolls were produced in Germany for the French market. This second series of dolls were used until 1915.

True to the publisher’s promise, patterns were printed in every issue. The patterns were simple and reflected the popular children’s styles of the day. The publisher stated that they were preparing the “future women and mothers of France” and learning to sew was a necessity.

From 1915 until the late 1920s, the third series of Bleuette was issued. Like the first and second series, she was produced by SFBJ and was marked “SFBJ 60” or “301.” Her height was also exactly 27 centimeters or 10 5/8 inches. Until the last Bleuette was introduced in 1933, the height of Bleuette was exactly 10 5/8 inches. Other SFBJ dolls shared the same markings on the head but if the height is different, the doll is not a “Bleuette.”

During this period, the magazine also began to publish a catalog twice a year, which displayed outfits suitable for Bleuette and marketed by Gautier-Languereau. During this same period, another model of Bleuette was introduced called the Unis Bleuette. She is marked “71 Unis France 149/ 60” or “301” and is 27 cm. tall.

By the early 1930s, bisque heads on Bleuette were becoming more scarce and composition heads were being used more. The height of the dolls also changed. Bleuette was now 29 cm or 11 3/8 inches tall. These dolls continued to be marked “71 Unis France 149/ 301.”

In 1960, after 55 years of popularity, “La Semaine de Suzette” finally closed its doors, but this did not last for long. In the late 1990s, Bleuette was discovered again. She was not so much sought after because of her beauty but because of her petite size and her wonderful wardrobe. Bleuette had been available to the public for 55 years and her weekly printed patterns and the bi-yearly catalogs advertising her ready- made clothing provides us with a bird’s-eye view of children’s fashion throughout the first half of the 20th century. Today, a collector and/or a seamstress can still find copies of the original magazine. Or, if searching through stacks of old magazines is not your desire, reprints of all of the patterns are available.

Whether you collect dolls from the early 20th century or dolls from the ’50s, Bleuette and her wardrobe can find a place in your home.

Photos courtesy Sherry Minton

Sherry Minton has served as president of three clubs belonging to the United Federation of Doll Clubs, Inc. She is a senior member of the American Society of Appraisers with a Designated Specialty in Dolls and Toys. Minton can be contacted at dollypictures@aol.com.


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