Welcome to My Red Cape. Long ago in another time my husband Jack and I lived in a little old red house. It was the stuff of dreams to us for the few years that we were there. I live there still a number of hours every day in imagination, with old dolls and paintings and fabrics and feather trees. I draw inspiration and happiness from the memories of that space in time and share some of it here with friends who remember how to step with Alice through the looking glass and take delight in whimsies and antiquities.

For more than sixty years I have studied, collected, repaired, and bought and sold antique dolls. They have been back ground music in my life at every stage, sometimes louder, sometimes subdued, but always there with me. To see only the posts about dolls on this blog, click the banner on the right titled Dolls for My Red Cape. Keep clicking “Older Posts” to see more. Some of the posts featuring rug hooking are gathered under the banner For Cathy. From time to time items are offered for sale under the banner “O’Neill’s Antiques” which was our shop name for many years. ~Edyth O’Neill

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An old Wooden Doll

Most of our friends did not realize how Jack vetted and shaped our collection of furnishings for the old cape he gave so much of himself to restore. Occasionally some item would come to my attention and Jack would say firmly, "Not in this house!" Usually I was close to being on target with things that both of us loved.  Jack and I were not wealthy, but we studied the Little's collecting and decorating at Cogswell's Grant and in our small way aspired to such a look in our cape.

Jack was very assertive about his choices to live with. An example is our take on old blue Staffordshire. When I met him I had an extensive collection of it, 52 pieces as I remember. Some big platters with cows and chickens and farm scenes and a few better pieces but not historical blue.  All of it had to go because it was not hand painted and early enough to suit him..  I hid one of my dear Staffordshire hens in the bottom of a cupboard. If I wanted blue, and I did, it needed to be Delft and we gathered a nice cupboard full of that, starting with a perfect and lovely early Delft plate his mama gave us. Just 2 years back we inherited Jack's mother's collection of blue Staffordshire china so I have a bit of it again, but the Delft is still the star in the living room.

To be considered antique, a toy or doll does not have to be as old as the furniture and accessories that Jack and I preferred to collect.  Our favorite furniture was early18th century and most of my doll family is from the mid to third quarter of the 19th.  Jack was always considerate of my affection for the dolls and he made wonderful furniture for them and helped find and display (and pay for!) A great many dolls for me. But he did not want many of them in the living room or dinning room of our old cape with the "real" antiques.. In fact they were mostly confined to one small bedroom except at Christmas time when they were given the run of the house.  Teddy bears are such Johnny come latelys that Jack had almost no tolerance for those. He would buy them for me, and even point them out at a show, but he  had no liking for them.  They did not GO.
  Later in our collecting, we realized that specializing in early wooden dolls would have been the proper course for us and the rest of our collection.   It seemed far too late to take off on that path by the time I knew what dolls would "go".  The earliest wooden dolls are often quite beautiful. Condition is as important in dolls as it is in any fine antiques. The ones I liked I surely had better not buy.  Like many other things over time, the later woodens  deteriorated in execution and were cruder from mass production even though still hand made. An extra few hundred thousand dollars would have let me set  a number of pretty nice ones about, though not the earliest Higgs types.  I do not come across them at antique shows any more now. 

Here is a very old doll who has a long memory and has had a full "life". Should we say existence?  In my mind their time lines are lives to an extent. It is enjoyable to try to read some of her story.


She looks to me like a great make do restoration from the early 19th century on an 18th century doll?  See how she is dressed, that is not period QA. Then looking closer, the wooden head and torso piece with the gesso and paint all worn off are her early part, and the cloth arms and legs added to replace lost jointed wooden arms and legs.  I find her quite loveable!  What is your read on her?  e

She sold  for $1611.00 on  Ebay   


  1. I don't have enough education to have a read on her, but I can say I have longed to know how the glass eyes were added to the woodens (understanding that gesso was added in places for lids, noses, etc.) but with this one, I can SEE!!! Thank you!

  2. she is utterly CHARMING! In my opinion, I would rather have a dolly such as her in MY collection of early woondens, than one in full gaudy retouched paint....she has been played with and loved on, was who knows how many little girls bestest friend. She looks to be 1800-1820 ish by the placement of the face on the head and workmanship~ there were alot of these dolls turned out then~ that are now referred to as earlier 18th c Queen Anne dolls, which they are not. Using the tuck comb type as examples~ the earliest ones with best and deepest carved features~ later ones quick and hastily produced. Wish I would have seen this one, shes be having tea with ME! XOXOXO rachael

  3. I love this doll,and would have been happy to welcome her into my home. I did bid on her, but was outbid at the very last moment.


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