In our new fangled world of plugged in everything, it’s important to remember that there are simple toys that can spark great and imaginative playtimes. Paper dolls are that kind of toy and they’ve never gone out of fashion. In fact, fashion is their main theme as the joy in paper dolls is dressing, undressing and redressing them and then conjuring up a story to go with each outfit.
Modern paper dolls are descendants of the 18th century French toy, the Jumping Jack. The Jack was a jointed paper figure that was used by grown ups to mock the noble classes. They had no removable outfits. By the middle of the 18th century, paper dolls began appearing in major cities like London, Paris and Berlin, mostly as advertisement to promote current fashion styles. A breakthrough in the popularity of paper dolls as toys came with the invention of the lithograph in 1796. This new printing method allowed publishers to create larger quantities of beautifully designed paper figures.
The original paper doll made expressly for children was S & J Fuller’s “Little Fanny” which was produced in London in 1810. This paper doll came with a small toy book or “chapbook” which was created to offer an unfolding story for playtime. During the 20th century, paper dolls remained popular – they were affordable during the Great Depression when other joys were often too costly, and they were still manufactured during WW II, although on cheaper papers. During the 1950’s, with many women staying home raising children, paper dolls were a much loved and often used toy.
These days, paper dolls are still here and still wonderful. Beautiful, original paper dolls can now be downloaded and printed from sites online, making the creative possibilities more easily available than ever. People are still making paper dolls- there is even a Kate Middleton paper doll. And of course it is possible to make your own. Here’s a great site if you’d like to dive in a give it a try. It’s a simple and rewarding process that can be fun for people of all ages.
Lorne Holden is an artist and Author of “MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done.” Visit her site and pick up a copy of this smart, inspiring read.