Posts Tagged ‘magazine cut out paper dolls’


These boxes, nestled one inside the other, contained the sum total of my mother’s paper doll collection. The blue box housed the large paper dolls that came in sets, the cigar box hid the “Progress” box, and inside that box were the paper dolls Mom cut out of magazines and catalogs.

I played with them all for the last time this past week.


There are a total of 11 Starlets: Greer Garson (3 dolls), two dolls each of Bette Davis (pictured above), Gene Tierney, Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Claudette Colbert, Rita Hayward, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and Ann Sheridan, and one doll of Alice Faye.

Then there are the generic sets including two military weddings (one complete with a cutout Reverend), some Prom dates, and a set of nine Cabaret girls, all with multiple outfits.

I made the hard decision to attach the dolls to archival paper and cover them with acid-free protectors, one doll and corresponding sets of clothing on the page(s) following. For example, the Cabaret Girls all together in the box, and then all separated out with personal outfits in the new scrapbook.

The dolls are not in perfect condition: they’ve been mended, are missing feet or hands, and their clothes have also been mended many times over. They are 76 years old and have been handled by my mother, her friends, and by my siblings and I.


The white album contains all of the sets of store-bought paper dolls (81 dolls, total) and their outfits (156 pages! Whew!). The blue album contains the dolls we were NEVER allowed to play with: The dolls cut out from magazines and catalogs.


There are three type-written pages detailing the names of the dolls, their religion, and age. Marital lines are carefully catalogued. My mother was 14 years old when she typed out this Family Tree for her precious paper dolls. She then wrote on the back of almost all of them with a pencil, an act that was a Godsend in helping me identify who was who. Also, one name might have several dolls to correspond with it (the men were easy – there is usually only one cutout per man). I guess women change their outfits more often. And their hair color.



I did find a date on the back of one paper doll: Redbook Magazine, December 1946. Mom was still adding to the family after she created the family tree!

There are 43 “living” family members listed (7 are listed as “deceased” and no doll corresponds with those names). After I attached them and put them in their sleeves, I counted them: 272 different dolls for those 43 “living” names.

They are in excellent shape, having never been played with by anyone other than my mother (I highly doubt she allowed her older sisters to play with them, or even a play mate – she certainly never allowed her own children to touch them!). I did get to play with them this one last time as I sorted them all out.

I asked myself several times why I was saving these paper dolls. The store bought sets are worthless on the retail market and are not even museum quality – they’re just the banged up remnants of a 14 year old girl’s childhood in the mid 1940’s. The magazine cut outs have a charming quality to them and are better preserved, but they really have no monetary value, either.

The next generation may not care about the time my mother spent cutting out, naming, and detailing the “lives” of her silent playmates. They may not care about the time I just invested in preserving those precious memories of my mother as a girl and of my childhood spent staring longingly at said dolls.

They probably won’t even care that I’m afraid if I damaged or destroyed the paper dolls, my mother would come to me in the night, full of temper.

I saved them because I can. I saved them because they’ve survived 76 years already. I saved them so I can show them to my own granddaughters (I hope).

But mostly I saved them because fear of being haunted by a mad Scotswoman is real.


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