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The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society chronicles the history of our region from American Indian occupation through 20th century industry and life.

Temporary Exhibit: Dear Santa, Please Bring Me A Doll…

Dear Santa, Please Bring Me a Doll…
Was Open Tuesday, November 8, 2011 – Friday, January 27, 2012

The Taber Museum featured a selection of dolls, miniature furniture, dollhouses and toys during the 2011 holiday season.  Opened November 8, the doll exhibit displayed until January 27, 2012.  Many of the dolls belonged to doll collector Margaret Myers (Mrs. Dietrick Wilson) Lamade and were given to the museum by Barbara Gates Vance Devlin in 1993.

Mrs. Devlin was married to James Rhen Vance, son of Elsie Lamade Vance, Margaret’s daughter.  Dolls from the permanent collection, which had not been exhibited in some time, were also displayed.  Director Gary Parks and doll collector Beatriz Parker of Lewisburg had selected dolls to be placed on display.  Mrs. Parker had conducted research on the doll collection and re-discovered some really interesting dolls.

Perhaps the greatest rediscovery is a Jules Steiner mechanical doll, circa 1875.  When wound with the key-and-lever mechanism, this French baby is said to kick and cry, turn its head and cry ‘Mama’.  The doll’s head is wax-over-papier mache as well as its limbs.  The doll’s clothing seems to be original — a long christening gown with blue ribbons.

Another doll of note depicts a young lady with brown eyes and blonde hair.  Her ears are accented with drop earrings.  She wears a silk dress accented with lace collar and cuffs.  The doll was produced in Germany but looks like the more expensive Jumeau and Bru dolls created in France.  The imitation was deliberate, in efforts to capture a part of the ‘market’.  The doll clearly shows Mrs. Lamade’s great taste in collecting.

The Museum is also fortunate to have a ‘Sheppard Baby’, produced in Philadelphia, circa 1910.  Although it is known where the doll was sold (Sheppard’s Department Store), it is not known who actually produced the doll.  The head is of cloth — stiffened, stitched and enhanced with oil paint.  Male dolls are comparatively rare and the Historical Society has two exceptional dolls.  One depicts Napoleon Bonaparte and was produced by Jumeau, one of the most desirable doll-producing companies in France and in the world.  Another depicts a Scottish Highlander in a brown kilt and argyle socks, presumably the family plaid.  The doll is a German bisque portrait doll.  He sports a shirt-front bodice with gilt-trimmed collar and bow tie as well as a pleated shirt front.

Other delights included a Minerva doll with a tin head, a wooden shoulder doll which dates from the second half of the 19th century, a doll with ‘flirty eyes’ or ‘Schelmenaugen’, a myriad of china heads, Frozen Charlottes, young ladies sporting their Highland Mary bangs, and a handsome couple of the eighteenth century dancing the minuet.

As an exciting addition to the doll exhibit, the Historical Society had the very special loan of two dollhouses from the early twentieth century.  One was the childhood dollhouse of Jane Watkins Ingersoll.  Jane Ingersoll was a guiding spirit at the LCHS, serving on the Board of Governors and for many years, worked as a valued volunteer Textiles Curator.  The dollhouse was graciously loaned to the museum by her daughter Nora Nicholas.

As well, the Tudor-style dollhouse of Ruth Gross was also on loan. It was built in New Zealand, displayed in London, and ultimately came to rest in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Michael Gross. The dollhouse was a favored possession of Dr. Gross’ mother Ruth, who purchased it at auction in the early 1960s. As he recalls, “She installed it in a spare room in her attic and spent many hours restoring various pieces and completing the collection of furnishings.” The dollhouse is equipped with miniature portraits, dolls reading the newspaper or books, parquet floors, electricity, outdoor landscaping, and running water!