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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tasha Tudor loved Dolls.

I have found very little information about the unexciting doll kits bearing Tasha's signature and a related date.   They were authorized by her though not designed by her. Dates on the backs of the dolls range at least from 1973 to 1982.  The dolls are not particularly attractive but they are of interest because of their association with the beloved artist.  I have seen a picture of one with an impressed date and name and the year 1985.  It may not be connected to the earlier run of them.  
Here are a few of the doll heads:

See how carefully Meg is signed in 1973. Later dolls seem to be done in a much heavier hand and perhaps not by Tasha herself at all.


1974 Emma has the more refined lettering.
They in no way represent Tasha's own artistry, but are reproductions of common German china heads from about 1900.    The dolls are readily found on ebay by searching Dolls, Tudor.  They were made with red hair, blond hair, and black. Names for them include Meg, Trudy, Sally, Beth, Mollie and more.  Kits included patterns, muslin, ceramic arms and legs and a shoulder head.   Although they are not charming to me, I have two of them just because I am interested in Tasha and also am a doll and toy collector.   Let us set these dolls aside from our consideration here.  
Tasha is known to have made a few dolls with her own hands as we have seen in her books. The most prominent of them is Emma Birdwhistle.  I believe Emma resembles Tasha herself with the almond eyes, long nose lovely cheekbones and  high arched brows.  The Tasha Tudor museum dates Emma Birdwhistle as circa 1985 – 1986.   Other creations include Thadeus Crane, and Captain Shakespeare made earlier and well documented.

She also made a doll, Daisy Brownthrush, for her Granddaughter, Jen Tudor Wyman.  Daisy is a young girl on a different scale from Emma Birdwhistle. 

I wonder if there are other dolls Tasha may have made or designed in her long life. Some collectors of all things Tasha have told me they know of no other dolls.  Yet I believe they could exist! To search for buried treasure one must first believe.  I have long believed there might have been more dolls made by Tasha Tudor than are yet documented and well known.  I have followed a few rabbit trails and come up with no bunnies.  This may be another one, so follow it here with me in that spirit.

Over a long life of producing things to sell, Tasha participated in a number of business ventures.  Mugs, aprons, cookie cutters and more were made and or designed by her.  In the 1980’s flyers came to me in the mail from one of the family enterprises offering the latest cards, prints and assorted other Tasha items to order by mail.  A few of these I saved as part of my Tasha memorabilia. Sadly they were lost in our house fire. I have asked a few friends and only one of them even remembers these mailings.  At one time there was an offer of a very expensive special order doll made by Tasha.  Some few of these may have been ordered.

NOTE:  I stand corrected here, a very knowledgeable and highly regarded friend has pointed out to me that the doll offered was said to have Tasha's own hand involved only in painting the faces.  The flyer states that Tasha has created the doll, but this means apparently that she has designed it.
Year 1990.

 At the time of Tasha’s passing, much biographical information was published on the internet, and I printed some of it for my scrapbooks about Tasha.  In re reading one of these, “Tudor. A New England Illustrator”   Wm. John Hare states “The Franklin Mint commissioned Tudor to design Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth in porcelain to commemorate The Little Women (1982)."   The Franklin Mint issued four figurines bearing Tasha’s name and advertised as designed by her. These four figurines were issued in 1982-84.   Thus it is established that Tasha had a contractual agreement with Franklin Mint and worked with them on at least this one project.  We know Tasha loved Alcott’s “Little Women” and had illustrated an issue of it years before.  

What would be more natural than for Tasha to design next four dolls representing the little women?    Franklin Mint issued four dolls not figurines in 1984 -1986 of the “Little Women” girls.  They do not bear Tasha’s name but the overwhelming majority of the mint’s dolls do not acknowledge a designer.   The advertisement I have seen for one of them does not say who designed them.   I own examples of all four and so can picture them here for you, but I would need permission to use pictures of Emma Birdwhistle, made 1985-1986 by the family estimate.  So for those of you who can, please turn to page 62 of the book  “Tasha Tudor’s Dollhouse”   and look at Emma Birdwhistle for yourself.  She is first of all a similar size to the Four Franklin Mint Little Women. Her high arched eyebrows and long nose and shape of her face with the lovely cheekbones are so like the four Franklin dolls which exactly bracket the date of Emma’s creation.  A few pages later is a good profile image of Emma seated at a table.   The most telling features to me are the almond shaped eyes of Emma and the four little women, eyes unlike other doll’s produced that year by the mint..  Looking at them as a group, the Franklin Mint ceramicists could surely have modeled from Tasha’s doll.  

Remembering Tasha’s strong interest in period clothing, the costumes for three of the dolls might have been acceptable to her while the almost gaudy bridal dress on Amy is painful to see.   But bringing to mind the frothy bridal dress of  Melissa for the doll's wedding covered by Life Magazine no less in 1955, the dress is not without some credibility.

So I look at the four sisters from the Franklin Mint and wonder. 

I wrote to my friend Helen,  "Emma of course looks like Tasha herself, looking at the lifetime of pictures in "Drawn from New England". I wonder if others think this?"  Helen replied  "I have heard forever that every doll maker reproduces her own face. Looking at some of mine I sort of hope that isn't true."  Helen said also  " Tasha was meticulous in her art (and in her life) and she loved what she loved, one of which was Little Women."

The proof lies somewhere in records of the Mint itself, if these still exist and can be accessed.   So that is my rabbit trail.  Bunnies anywhere?

 Go look at Emma Birdwhistle if you have the book .  Please do read the very interesting comments below.  e
Keep the comments coming, here is a scan of the flyer sent to us by Jane, see her comments below. Thank you Jane!  I do not see the size of the doll but she seems small in her lovely presentation band box. Daisy is priced at $1900.
 If I wanted to enjoy a similar doll I would be very happy to redress Franklin Mint's Jo above shown in Red Velvet.  The hair can stand more than a little taming. Jo is readily and inexpensively found on ebay and etsy.  I think she would like to have a corgi don't you?  e      Click any picture to see it larger.
Look at the face of Miss Daisy Belle!  Surely they are family!   

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