“You will love to include me in your family, not only because I am beautiful and good, but because you can do so much with me. My real human hair grows right out of my head… it is not a wig glued on… so you can comb and curl it as much as you like without spoiling it.
My clothes zip and snap on and off, just like yours, so you can always keep me in fresh dresses.
In any case, I will keep you very busy.”
This gold tag, signed “Monica Doll, Hollywood.” was the tag found on a very special doll. From 1941–1957, Mrs. Hansi Share created and produced a doll, which was ahead of its time in the small doll studio she owned in Hollywood, Calif.
Perhaps influenced by the statuesque and seductive movie stars of the 1940s, Hansi Share created a doll whose pouty lips and pensive painted eyes reminds us of the faces of Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Betty Grable. Even the body of this doll was longer and leaner than the other play dolls of the period. The arms and legs are also longer giving the doll a sophisticated air. She was a child but somehow not a child.
On the tag found hanging from a ribbon on the doll, it states that, “my hair grows right out of my head…” and, indeed, it did. The Monica Doll Company was the first and only company to produce a composition and, later, a hard plastic doll with rooted hair. Human hair was actually rooted into the scalp. The hairstyles of the dolls were away from the face and a widow’s peak is evident on most models found. The styles were more elegant than cute and curly giving the dolls a look of glamour.
While a hard plastic version with open-and-close eyes was introduced in 1949, it is the early composition Monica dolls that are so beautiful. The composition formula used to produce the Monica dolls is not known but it differs from what we find used with other American composition dolls of the period. The Monica composition is flawlessly smooth with a matte almost velvet look to it. The dolls were jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips and had painted features with much detail including highlights and shading of the eyes and lips. According to advertisements, the dolls were sold in sizes 15 inches to 24 inches with the larger sizes being the most difficult to find. Some of the larger sizes also came with a cloth torso rather than composition, but these models are seldom found.
The Monica dolls were expensive and were sold at upscale stores such as Neiman Marcus and F.A.O. Schwarz. Many dolls were dressed in gowns reflecting the glamour of the movie stars, but few original clothes can be positively identified unless found on an un-played with doll. The dolls were not marked and neither were the clothes. The only identification was the small gold tag hanging on the skirt when purchased.
These dolls are rarely found, especially in good condition. Whether it was the unique composition formula or the temptation to cut, curl and wash the hair, Monica dolls when found are often cracked or crazed, sometimes split at the seams or bald. Even in terrible condition, however, they are a study in a very unusual creative process.
Another innovative woman in a business dominated by men was Marie Antoinette Leontine Rohmer. In her shop in Paris from 1857-1880, she produced elegant French fashion ladies in both bisque and china. She continually experimented with ways to make her dolls more beautiful and to make their bodies more realistic.
She patented a kid body with articulated jointing and a kid body with gutta percha (a rubber type material) arms. She felt that movable joints in the body and realistically shaped arms, rather than kid arms, made her dolls much more attractive to the buyer. She also patented a method of turning the head of the doll by pulling strings that were attached inside the head, extended through the shoulder plate and out through riveted holes in the chest. When pulled, the head would move from side to side.
The Rohmer dolls can be found with both painted or glass eyes. As with the Monica dolls, great detail was given to the painting of the Rohmer doll heads, especially the treatment of the eyes. Whether glass eyed or painted, shading and color blends were very important in giving the dolls an innocent yet seductive appeal.
Two women from two different periods of doll production history, both choosing to create dolls with very different looks from what was considered normal for the period. Today these dolls are difficult to find and are expensive on the doll market, but if you are fortunate enough to find one, they will look like no other doll in your collection.
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