What girl doesn’t remember drawing out people on paper and coloring it in and cutting it out to play with it? Paper dolls are a timeless craft that even as adults, we still play with them in one way or another! As long as there has been paper, there seems to have been paper dolls. Paper dolls encompass the figure drawn out 2 dimensionally, all the clothes items with the addition of possible household items drawn out for the dolls to be played with. And other materials besides paper can also be used for decoration.
1810, the first paper doll, Little Fanny, was manufactured in London by S&J Fuller. 1812 was the year the first American paper doll, Little Henry, was manufactured (by J. Belcher of Boston). Paper dolls, however, have existed long before that in various cultures. As early as 900, Japan had a paper figure in a kimono placed inside a boat for a purification ceremony. In Indonesia, a leather, paper and cloth shadow puppet (Wayang) was used for entertainment purposes. China has had some form of origami paper doll, folded into a 3 dimensional figure. France even had the jumping jack harlequins, called Pantin, since the 1700s. But the first dolls originally came from the English fashion world in the form of advertisements when they printed the current fashion trends onto paper. Dolls made of cardboard and jointed with thread were printed onto cardboard. Undergarments and the changes of clothing came together with the dolls. Originally, these paper dolls did not come with tabs as they do today. The clothes stayed on with small drops of wax carefully placed on the dolls.
Celebrities are also used on paper dolls. Historically, it was to be played with paper theatres. In the early 1900’s, there was no licensing so it was easier for actors to be replicated on paper. In current times, it is more difficult to find celebrities as paper dolls. However, since royalty does not come under the licensing rules, you can still find a number of royal paper dolls.
Magazines first started printing paper dolls, again as advertisements. In 1859, Godey’s Ladies Book was the first to print paper dolls along with items of clothing. One could color the black and white print and then cut it out. Thereafter, other magazines followed suit and did their own versions. And soon after, newspapers followed the trend.
These days, paper dolls are not in huge demand. Although there are collectors of paper dolls, modern children do not necessarily play with them. The Barbie doll has been credited with the decline of paper dolls. For collectors however, there are guilds and conventions available. For the altered artist, paper dolls and the clothing are the perfect medium for a new type of creativity. You can find online, various paper doll sites and it is quite easy to choose, color and print your own dolls. But maybe, the thrill in collecting would be to purchase a stack of papers and finding amongst them, an uncut paper doll with the clothing.