"I have a proposition for you," my friend Bonnie said, as she pulled a mysterious tissue-wrapped bundle from a bag. Unwrapping it, she showed me two old primitive wooden dolls, a kind I had never seen before.
She proceeded to present her "proposition:" "I know you can make doll clothes," she said, "so if you dress this one, I'll give you this one!" She pointed to the one missing the lower leg, the one she called "disabled." I was thrilled! I would be happy to make some handsewn clothes for her doll, so that I could earn the other for my own.
I am pretty sure I can make a nice outfit for Bonnie's doll and I'm also pretty sure I can fashion a new leg for my new doll, too.
Bonnie told me that the friend that gave her these dolls told her they were made for coal miners children, and that they had come from Virginia. She also guessed that they were pretty old.
I wanted to learn more about these dolls, so the first thing I did was post a picture of them on the Vintage Cloth Doll Making site. Several people responded that they were called "Penny Woods," inexpensive dolls that were sold in the 1800s in England, in Penny Shops, similar to our "dimestores," of the 1940s-60s. Most were small, about 4 1/2" tall, but Bonnie's are 11 1/2" tall.
One of the Vintage Cloth Dollmakers suggested I Google Penny Wood Doll as she had; she said there was a lot of information about them available online. I did and she was correct; I learned a lot about these dolls and saw some that were very similar to these two. WERE they made for coal miners children? I really don't know, but it's possible that these dolls were stocked at "company stores," for miners to purchase for their children. At the time these dolls were inexpensive; now, not so much!
At any rate, I am newly smitten by these dolls, as I have often been smitten before. See more of these dolls at: