Category Archives: Dolls and Toys

The Rocking Horse: 1896


“Who bids?” The auctioneer held up a child’s rocking horse, battered and stained. It had belonged to some little member of the man’s family whose household property was being sold under the hammer. He was utterly ruined. He had given up everything in the world to his creditors—house, furniture, horses, stock of goods and lands. He stood among the crowd watching the sale that was scattering his household goods and his heirlooms among a hundred strange hands. On his arm leaned a woman, heavily veiled.

“Who bids?”

The auctioneer held the rocking horse high, that it might be seen. Childish hands had torn away the scanty mane; the bridle was twisted and worn by tender little fingers. The crowd was still. The woman under the heavy veil sobbed and stretched out her hands. “No, no, no!” she cried. The man’s face was white with emotion. The little form that once so merrily rode the old rocking hose had drifted away into the world years ago. This was the only relic left of his happy infancy. The auctioneer, with a queer moisture in his eyes, handed the rocking horse to the man without a word. He seized it with eager hands, and he and the veiled woman hurried away. The crowd murmured with sympathy. The man and woman went into an empty room and set the rocking horse down. He took out his knife, ripped open the front of the horse and took out a roll of bills. He counted them and said: “It’s a cold day when I fail without a rake off. Eight thousand five hundred dollars, but that auctioneer came very near busting up the game.”–Houston Post.

The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia, PA] 12 March 1896

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil is speechless with admiration, yet puzzled by the idea that a knife could rip open the front of the horse. She is used to substantial toy rocking horses made of wood prancing in the nursery. Upon consulting with Miss Jessica Wiesel, who is a miniaturist and scholar of antique playthings, she received this very pertinent information: “Smaller horses were often made of papier-mache and covered with the hides of veal calves, the “skin horse,” from The Velveteen Rabbit was one of these. The big wooden ones were always very expensive and considered not very safe.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The Automobile Doll: 1914

The Automobile Doll.

There was once a little girl who had no home. Her father owned houses and lands and was worth thousands and thousands of dollars; her mother had beautiful gowns and everything she wished, and in the beginning there was a home.

One day, the little girl’s father took her on his knee and told her he had sold their home and for three years the family would do nothing but travel. At first the little girl was delighted, but one morning in London she was suddenly homesick. She wished to go back to America and sit in her own rocking-chair. But that, of course, was impossible.

“Let’s go and buy a doll,” suggested mother.

“All right,” agreed the little girl, “and let’s buy one that likes to travel!”

To Peter Robinson’s famous shop went the whole family—father, mother, and little girl; there for a gold sovereign they bought a beautiful doll from Germany.

“She hasn’t any clothes,” suggested the little girl.

“She must be dressed like a princess,” her father said, laughing.

“If that is so,” said mother, “we must take her to a court dressmaker.”

“What’s a court dressmaker?” asked the little girl. “Does it mean that all the dressmakers who have ‘Court Dressmaker’ on their signs make dresses for princesses?”

“We will see,” replied mother. Whereupon the whole family called upon a French dressmaker on Bond Street, who told the little girl that she designed gowns for the royal family and for all the titled ladies of England.

Madame agreed to provide the proper wardrobe for the doll if the little girl’s father cared to pay what it was worth. Father consented. He felt so sure little girls belonged in homes that he was willing to do anything to make his little girl forget that she had no home.

From London the family went to Paris, and from Paris they travelled all over Europe. Wherever they visited, the little girl bought treasures for the doll; in Paris, hats and gowns; in Switzerland, a tiny watch; in Holland, Dutch costumes; in Germany and Austria, beautiful little dishes; and in Italy, necklaces and jewels. Perhaps there was never a doll so bountifully supplied with personal belongings as Henrietta Maria Florabel Jane. That was the name father gave the doll one day when he wished to make the little girl laugh.

Owning things never made any one happy. The doll cared nothing for her wee fans and tiny parasols. She was soon tired of travel, and if she ever wished for anything it was for a home. She was particularly tired of the automobiles in which the little girl’s father took them flying through the country.

At the end of two years the family returned to America and, without asking the doll if she preferred staying in Boston, they took her to California for the winter.

To be sure, the doll didn’t know that the little girl’s father talked of buying a home in the West; all she knew was that from one week’s end to another she passed most of her time in an automobile.

The little girl enjoyed the rides, but the doll slid back among the cushions and fell asleep every time she had a chance. If the little girl tried to make the doll sit straight, she was sure to pitch forward.

“Her sawdust is getting all wibblywobbly,” the little girl said to her mother one day.

“Well,” laughed mother, “it is no wonder. Think how many miles the poor thing has travelled. She doesn’t seem to enjoy automobiles.”

“I never thought of it before,” remarked the little girl, “but I suppose she is like me, and would rather have a home than anything else, especially when to-morrow is Christmas. Always hanging up your stockings in a hotel fireplace! Dear me!”

It was perhaps five minutes later that the automobile broke down beside an orange grove a few miles outside of Redlands.

The doll fell asleep the minute the little girl and her mother climbed out of the back seat. The accident happened about three o’clock in the afternoon. Father walked to a ranch house and telephoned for help. Hours passed, while the family ate oranges and watched the men work at repairing the machine.

“Let’s take a walk,” suggested the little girl; “let’s go straight back through the orange grove.”

Hidden among the trees, the two came upon a tiny cottage covered with climbing roses.

“Oh, it’s a real home!” whispered the little girl.

“Children live here,” added mother.

“Yes,” the little girl went on, “and look at the tracks of bare baby feet going along by the irrigating ditch. Let’s play it’s an adventure and follow the footsteps.”

“Oh, they’re having a good time!” whispered the little girl. “Hear them laugh! Let’s hurry! Oh, it’s a Christmas-tree!”

A group of children were so busy decorating a little cypress-tree that they didn’t notice the strangers until the child and her mother saw what they were doing. They were tying paper dolls to the tree, and the dolls were cut from a merchant’s catalogue.

“To-morrow’s Christmas,” explained the oldest child, twisting her apron and digging her toes in the sand when she saw the little girl and her mother. The other children, mere babies, ran away.

“It’s a ‘streemly pretty tree,” ventured the little girl.

“It’s for the children,” went on the sister, “our children and two little boys that never even went to Redlands. Mother said we could have a tree.”

“It’s—it’s ‘streemly pretty,” repeated the little girl.

“There’s a present for everybody.” The sister’s face brightened as she spoke. “Not presents that cost money, but mother and all of us have made things and it’s going to be lovely. We’re to have it in the morning.”

“Are you going to have any presents your own self?” demanded the little girl.

“Why, yes,” was the reply. “Of course I won’t get anything big, like dolls, because our orange grove isn’t paid for yet, and you always pay for your orange grove and water tax before your mother can buy big things, but everybody’!! get something. Our mother is—is pretty, too!”

This the small sister added as she realized for the first time that the little girl’s mother was beautiful.

“I just wish,” she continued, “that we could give her something lovely. I’m afraid she’ll be disappointed.”

“Would she like a new hat?” asked the little girl’s mother.

“Would she?” echoed the small sister. “But, you see, a hat’s a big thing!”

“Can you keep a secret until to-morrow morning?” inquired the little girl’s mother as she untied a pink silk scarf and took off her hat. “Because if you can, here is a Christmas surprise for your mother.”

“That lovely hat?” gasped the small sister.

“That lovely hat!” echoed mother, laughing, while the little girl clapped her hands. “I’ll wear my scarf home.”

The sun went down and the moon rose before the automobile was in order. The cottage children were asleep when the little girl remembered Henrietta Maria Florabel Jane.

“Oh, wake up, wake up,” said she, giving the doll a shake. “You’ll never have to take another journey. Mother, mother, may I put her on that Christmas-tree? Those children will love her, and she acts as if she doesn’t like automobiles. I am sure it will make her happy to be a Christmas doll in California, and have a home!”

Through the orange grove went the whole family until they reached the Christmas tree in the shining moonlight. Father tied the doll where the little sister could reach it in the morning, and then, fearing to be seen, the three ran back to the automobile and were soon speeding away toward their hotel.

Father had planned a Christmas surprise, and, if the automobile had not broken down where it did, Henrietta Maria Florabel Jane might have ended her days in the attic of the new home instead of in the little cottage among the orange trees, where she helped the small sister take care of the babies.

“If you’re good,” the small sister used to say to the little ones, “you may hold the automobile Christmas doll.”

If smiles mean anything, the doll was happy ever after.—Frances Margaret Fox, in Little Folks.

The Unitarian Register, Volume 93, 1914

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The ever-curious Mrs Daffodil cannot help but speculate on why the gentleman sold his home and decided to travel. Was he, as the Americans say, “on the run”?

The story suggests that the automobile doll needed to be fitted for a proper travelling wardrobe at that Court Dressmaker’s establishment.


The automobile doll is nothing short of entrancing. She is pretty enough to excite envy in the breast of any woman, for no matter how long the drive and how strong the wind, she arrives at the end of her journey looking as fresh as when she started out.

Over her frock she wears a light weight automobile coat made in the latest fashion. On her hands are strong automobile gloves, while her eyes are protected by miniature automobile goggles which cannot spoil her beauty, ugly as they are. For old days the automobile doll has a heavy ulster, sometimes fur lined, and a fur lined hood to keep her ears protected from biting winds. One of the newest doll importations is an automobile doll wearing a stunning automobile veil to match her coat. Kansas City [MO] Star 17 December 1907: p. 12

Perhaps then the automobile doll would have been happier, although that might have led to an altogether less uplifting ending to the story.

It is singular how dolls and Christmas are inseparably linked, particularly in Holiday numbers of illustrated papers for the Young. There is also the popular tradition of the Fairy or Angel Doll for the top of the Christmas tree.

Should her readers be interested, Mrs Daffodil has written about Cora’s Christmas Doll, The Christmas Doll House, and “Mademoiselle Frou-Frou,” a highly fashionable Christmas bazaar doll.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


A Toy Cannon at Antietam: 1862

Miniature Cannon on display in the White House of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. Curators believe that it was not owned by the family of Jefferson Davis.

Miniature workable cannon on display in the White House of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia. Curators believe that it was not owned by the family of Jefferson Davis.


How a Boy Fought and Lost His Life at Antietam

[Philadelphia Times]

General Hector Tyndale Post No. 160, of this city, has been presented with a small brass cannon, which is apparently a toy, but it has a historical interest.

It was used at the battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, with deadly effect. It was drawn from Sharpsburg while the battle was in progress by a boy sixteen years of age, who lived in the vicinity, and who, like old John Burns at Gettysburg a year later, went into the conflict on his own responsibility. He took a position on an elevation and with his little cannon faced the enemy and poured load after load of deadly missiles from the muzzle of his miniature cannon into the ranks of the Confederates. The young hero fought for hours in the ranks of the Union army. Among the hundred thousand men with whom he fought there was not one with whom he had any personal acquaintance.

While thus engaged he was shot, it is believed, by a rebel sharp-shooter. When found he was lying upon his face, with his body across the little gun. After his death the cannon was kept until recently, when it was sold for old brass and brought to this city with other old metals. A comrade of the Tyndale Post, who is an extensive metal broker, learned the history of the little piece of artillery, then dirty and corroded, and presented it to the society. It has been cleaned and brightened up and looks like new. It is about three feet in length and has a bore of less than two inches.

Xenia [OH] Daily Gazette 3 August 1886: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The Battle of Antietam of 17 September 1862, was the bloodiest single day in the American Civil War. Over 500 cannons were deployed with terrible effect. Participants dubbed it “Artillery Hell”  for the fire that rained down from the artillery batteries on the heights. One can have no conception of the infernal noise of the battlefield.

Toy cannons were a popular amusement of the young.  While many were designed to fire wooden projectiles, a surprising number were designed to be actually fired, to deadly, sometimes fatal effect. For example, in 1901, 244 persons across the United States were injured by toy cannons over the Fourth of July holiday.

Mrs Daffodil has, alas, not been able to corroborate this touching story of youthful soldiery, nor locate the original cannon.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

A Miniature Laundry for the Summer Girl: 1904

little girl laundry

According to a writer in the Chicago Chronicle, New York Girls are indulging in a fad for laundry work this summer.

In one of her summer trunks the girl of Gotham takes a miniature laundry outfit. Everything is dolls’ size, but very useful just the same.

There is the tiny washboard. There is the little bit of a washtub, no bigger than a little girl would need for her doll clothes. There is the little box of fine starch and the salt to make it smooth and glossy. There are the tiny clothespins, and there is the blueing and there are the dyes. Fine washing, nowadays, includes the knowledge of ecru tints, cream and blue and gray.

For ironing purposes the Gotham girl takes with her a little charcoal iron. You build a fire in it and it stays hot all through the ironing. It is the neatest, safest thing that ever was, and the summer girl who owns such an iron is quite independent of gas and electricity, of stoves and uncertain heat.

Washing one’s own clothes in one’s own room is a great fad. The boarding-house keeper and the proprietor do not like it, but what can the poor girl do when there is no laundry handy or when the prices are ruinous?

It is a fad to give a laundry party. All the other boarders are invited in your room, while you slap out your fine laces, wash your organdies and lawns and do a little lace handkerchief ironing on the looking-glass and window pane. There is many a dollar saved this way, so it is a very useful fad.

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 3 July 1904: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Unless one has unlimited funds or a laundry staff of unlimited patience, Mrs Daffodil advises the summer girl to choose textured garments: seer-sucker, crape, or coarse linen of the Aesthetic variety. These may be shaken out and hung up to dry with little or no need for that tiny charcoal iron. Add a chiffon frock for evening, which may be steamed over a pan of hot water, if mussed in a moonlit embrace. One’s time at the summer resorts may be more profitably spent flirting with a handsome gentleman on the esplanade rather than rinsing one’s embroidered lawn frock or trying to reconcile one’s laundry list with the returned items.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


“Won’t You Skip, Sir?”: 1879


Jump rope with mechanical counter. 1872

Jump rope with mechanical counter. 1872

“Won’t You Skip, Sir?”

Pedestrians on Plymouth avenue were very much amused the other afternoon at a little scene, in which several well known ladies and gentlemen participated, greatly to their own satisfaction and the edification of others. Two children, a boy and a girl, one of each side of the walk, were swinging a skipping rope, and from their actions it was evident they had an object in view. The first to approach was one of our prominent jewelers, and he was greeted with the request, most politely made, “won’t you jump, sir, before you go past?” The gentleman received the proposal in the same spirit that it was offered, settled his hat firmly on his head, looked around to see that no one was near, measured the distance with a practiced eye, jumped the flying rope with all the ease and accuracy of youth, and then marched on with a smile on his face, glancing neither to the right or to the left. No far behind was a popular Main Street groceryman, who observed the performance and at once caught the humor of the thing. He is bulky in form and short in wind, but when the inquiry came, “Won’t you jump, sir?” he replied, “Of course I will,” and forthwith spread himself in the air with an abandon that threatened to burst his coat, but which cleared the rope, to the infinite delight of the children. The next was the critical test. She was young and shapely, bright of face, and stylish of apparel, and she had witnessed the aerial flights of her predecessors. It was her turn, and to the honor of the sex, be it said, she did not shirk the responsibility. The trail was kicked up and firmly grasped, the body swayed for a moment in time with the rope, then came a spring, a flash of cardinal hose in the sunlight as she swept through the air with the greatest of ease, and then pursued her way without a misplaced ruffle to tell the story of her daring. The next victim was one of the Sunday school scholars who reports for this paper, and greatly to his discredit, be it said, he made a most inglorious failure. He was more accustomed to skipping the tra-la-le than a jumping rope, and the result was disaster. He extricated himself, however, but the blushes on his face was so deep that he could not see those who came after, and as a veracious chronicler of events of course the story is compelled to conclude with his mishap.

The Wyandott Herald [Kansas City, KS] 22 May 1879: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: At the date of this little vignette, the young lady in the cardinal hose would perhaps have worn something like this French confection, making her pluck and agility worthy of high commendation. Mrs Daffodil will pass over in silence the perpetually tardy “Sunday School scholar,” who, no doubt, was recovering from some juvenile debauch.

1879 French gown

1879 French gown

red overdone french3


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Easter Egg-stravagances: 1898

The Coronation Egg and coach, Faberge, 1897

The Coronation Egg and coach, Faberge 1897


Some of the Monster Eggs Made For Display This Year.

Comic Figures on Easter Egg Shells.

In these days of skilled confectioners the Easter eggs, natural and artificial, have become, some of them, veritable works of art, while all exhibit the skill and ingenuity of their manufacturers in the grotesqueness, beauty, or costliness of their designs. Nor will the outside of the Easter egg alone, however quaint or beautiful it may be, absorb the attention of the recipient; but eager fingers will at once seek to solve the mystery—what woman or child is there who does not delight in mystery of the kind of the breed of the chicken the egg will hatch. And the chickens! Well, you may expect to find anything from a bed room set to an Easter bonnet in your egg this year; for watches, rings, broches, clocks, studs, pins, gloves, sweetmeats, handkerchiefs, books, photos, and live birds are the names of but a few of the many delightful surprises which will await the egg openers.

Cardboard Easter egg in two halves, covered in mauve satin, the top painted with white hen and yellow chick, surrounded by catkins and pussy willow. The insides decorated with floral paper, similar to LAN.Misc.342 and LAN.Misc.343. White string loop.

A hand-painted mauve satin Easter Egg box.

Eggs in which presents are to be placed are made of papier-mache shells, and are usually covered with hand-painted satin. Of course where the giver is an artist, the value of the gift will be enhanced greatly if the painting is done by the same hand that sends the gift. Travelers sometimes bring in ostrich eggs to be painted and filled; and, at least one egg of the extinct great auk has passed through the hands of the confectioner. This egg would be a gift fit for a king, empty or filled, for the rarity of the great auk’s eggs makes them of very great value. But the record-breaker, in point of size and probably in costliness, was an egg made in London and sent to a South African millionaire’s bride. The shell of this giant egg was composed entirely of chocolate, and was nine feet long and eighteen feet in circumference at the widest part. It required seven men to carry it. A ton of superfine confectionery, an expensive and extensive wedding trousseau and numerous wedding gifts were all packed within the egg. The bill for the sweetmeats alone was $2,500 and the whole was insured for many thousands of dollars, before being shipped to Africa.

The largest chocolate egg in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The largest chocolate egg in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

A few years ago a certain New York railroad magnate had a superb Easter egg made for his little son. It was a miniature carriage, the body being in the shape of a huge egg, enameled white, lined with white quilted satin, and drawn by a pair of exceedingly diminutive ponies. This is but one of the many Easter extravagancies indulged in by New Yorkers. Indeed, no city in the world buys costlier Easter eggs than does New York; and this fact has made its confectioners the most skillful of workmen in this department of art.

This year the display of Easter novelties is especially attractive, and includes many beautiful and quaint designs. There is the little Swiss carrier, with the egg in the pannier; and a very large and extremely wise-looking mother owl and her numerous family, with bodies made of delicious chocolate eggs, which is quite sure to please lovers of the odd. While a real chick, dressed to represent a milliner’s apprentice, with a great box of eggs in one hand and a bunch of fragrant flowers in the other, can, should the donor wish, deliver an expensive hat or bonnet in lieu of the eggs in the box. Another elaborate and costly affair is a very pretty egg, carried in a bamboo cab or jinricksha, and drawn by a team of four stately little storks. On the high seat at the back stands a fifth stork, who, with all the dignity of mien of a Fifth-avenue coachman, appears to be ready to drive the dainty equipage post haste to the home of the donor’s lady love. Of course the proper thing to do would be to drop a beautiful jewel into the egg before giving the coachman the address. Then there are rich cakes, in the form of magnificent eggs, iced and decorated in a most beautiful manner and bound, where the two halves are joined, with pretty ribbons.

But the quaintest and funniest of all are the Easter egg likenesses. These are made from hen’s eggs. The contents are first blown out and the shells weighted or balanced with fine shot, in such a way that they will always stand on end. An artist now takes the eggs and judges from their shapes what “character” to give each one. Then, with brush and paint, he proceeds to transform the eggs into ludicrous caricatures of, it may be, Mr. Gladstone, Grover Cleveland, Cecil Rhodes, McKinley or other notable characters. Now the funny thing is the behavior of these egg-men. Knock Grover Cleveland down; and, with his usual obstinacy, up he bobs, ready for another hit. Push Gladstone over; and the Grand Old Fellow jumps up so quickly and frowns so fiercely that one is quite sure he must have seen a Turk. Even McKinley cannot be downed; and the dude swaggers about furiously, and the clown rolls and tumbles around in a way to make the heart glad and the lips laugh. It is the fine shot, held firmly by wax to the bottom inside of the shell that enables these quaint little egg-men to accomplish these marvelous gymnastical feats.

grover cleveland and clown easter eggs Easter Egg Ideas

The Easter egg novelties for children are more numerous and costly than ever this year. Beautiful and elaborate eggs made of satin or plaited straw, have hidden within them delightful surprises for the bright eyes of their owners to spy out. A doll’s complete trousseau, or a miniature tea or dinner-service, or a regiment of soldiers, or a boy’s tool chest, or countless games and mechanical toys of all kinds are apt to make the hatching of the eggs on Easter day an exceedingly enjoyable occupation for the children.

The Fort Wayne [IN] News 6 April 1898: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The famous Imperial Russian Easter eggs are, of course, the most luxe example of the filled-Easter-egg genre. The bejewelled and enamelled objects were filled with surprises such as a clock-work elephant, a miniature coronation coach, or portraits of the Imperial children. Mrs Daffodil imagines that a child receiving a tool chest or doll’s tea-service would feel every bit as gratified by their Easter surprises as the Empresses and Dowager Empress, who, one fancies, must occasionally have tired of guilloché enamel and yearned for a simple box of chocolates.

A clockwork elephant by Faberge, the surprise from the Rose Trellis Egg, 1892

A clockwork elephant by Faberge, the surprise from the Rose Trellis Egg, 1892

Mrs Daffodil does question the wisdom of shipping a 9-foot-long chocolate egg packed, not only with confectionery, but with a trousseau, to the torrid clime of South Africa.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



Mademoiselle Frou-Frou: 1871

A Jumeau fashion doll won in a charity fair raffle.

A Jumeau fashion doll won in a charity fair raffle.


Verily the ways of Boston are past finding out. The naughty French play of Frou-Frou received little toleration from its moral public; yet the greatest attraction for the French Fair which is now absorbing the Athenaeum time and pocket is a wonderful doll named “Mademoiselle Frou-Frou.” There were Worcester’s unabridged and Boston’s animated dictionaries to choose from, but the fashionable mind preferred to be nothing if not immoral. It suited the word to an action that will do more harm to Boston than the money from it can ever do good to France.

Here is a woman who deliberately goes to work to illustrate in a doll all the frivolity and extravagance of her sex, with the intention of having that “counterfeit presentment” adorn the play-room of some American child, possibly her own. This modern Boston woman spends weeks upon Mlle. Frou-Frou’s wardrobe. She arrays this little bit of wax and sawdust in pink moiré antique, real point lace, and real jewelry. She prepares no less than twelve gorgeous suits, all of which are of the handsomest silk and many of which are trimmed with the most expensive lace. For every dress there are correspondingly gorgeous underclothes, boots, hats, handkerchiefs, fans, parasols, kid gloves, &c., &c. There are a pearl card-case for visiting, a lorgnette for the theater, porte-monnaie for shopping, camels’ hair shawl, seal-skin coat, and every article dreamed of by the most extravagant woman that ever drew breath in the old world or the new. And having conceived this monstrosity, the Boston woman sets Mlle. Frou-Frou on a table at the French Fair, surrounds her with the aforesaid impedimenta, and calls upon the public to admire and to invest in shares. The public obeys willingly. Men and women surround the doll, three deep, and gloat upon the exhibition as they would gloat upon a fashionable “opening.” “Stunning!” exclaim the men. “Perfectly splendid!” exclaim the women; while the discontented few transfer their disgust of Frou-Frou to disgust of human beings who can countenance so flagrant an immorality; for anything that debases youth is immoral, and the child who falls heir to that doll cannot fail to learn more lessons in frivolity than can be unlearned in years. As the twig is bent the tree is inclined. Will the little miss be content to wear calico when her doll wears silk? Will she be satisfied with two or three dresses and one hat and one pair of boots when her doll has dozens? Will she wear cotton gloves when her doll scorns everything but Paris kid? Will she retain the simplicity of childhood when her doll is perpetually poisoning her eyes with a complete picture of the girl of the period? Children are so like monkeys in their imitative propensities as almost to lead one to believe in Darwin’s theory regarding the origin of species, and whoever would bring them up in the way they should go will as quickly open the front door to small-pox as to that breeder of moral disease, Mlle. Frou-Frou.

Of all the dolls on exhibition at the French Fair—and their name is legion—few are fit for other than children born with gold spoons in their mouths, and a certainty of inheriting the Kingdom of Mammon. What wonder that so many women are extravagant dolls, when so many dolls are extravagant women?

New York [NY] Tribune 20 April 1871: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil regrets that she was unable to find a photo-gravure of this waxen temptress. To-day is the anniversary of the birth of that iconic American doll, “Barbie,” whose face, figure, and lavish accoutrements have been equally excoriated by parents and educators who feared her sinister influence upon Impressionable Youth.

In 1938 her Majesty and her late sister, Princess Margaret, were given French fashion dolls named France and Marianne. They were sumptuously equipped, not only with gowns from the most distinguished couture houses, but with shoes, fur coats, jewels, and even motor-cars.  (The dolls and their wardrobes may be viewed on the Royal Collections site.) There was, Mrs Daffodil recalls, no outcry about the “immorality” of the extravagance nor of the pernicious effects on the simplicity of the young Princesses.

The French Fair was held in 1871 Boston in aid of the widows, orphans, and wounded of the French army in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. Mademoiselle Frou Frou was a scandalous play about an adulterous heroine, which seems to begin as farce, but ends in tragedy.

Not all found the doll Mlle. Frou Frou objectionable:

Among the most remarkable articles was one which a Boston lady has been engaged for some time past in preparing, a doll, with wardrobe so perfect, that it would find no rival. So Mademoiselle Frou Frou is the result, and really she is quite worth going to see, if one had nothing else in view. Miss Flora McFlimsey would have been poorly clad in comparison. There were the most beautiful ball, party, walking, dinner and carriage dresses, all finished in the choicest materials, in latest style and exquisite taste. She has bonnets (fairy affairs too they are), hats, cloaks, camel’s hair shawl, laces of beautiful texture, gloves of every shade and of Paris make. Her jewel box is well filled, and such a tiny, dainty diamond ring as you would find there! Also, a little mother-of-pearl card case, filled with her cards. [engraved thus:]

Mademoiselle Frou Frou,


Last, but not least, two perfect little trunks, with her name well marked thereon. The price is only S2,000, and this fashionable plaything is setting rafflers doll-mad.

The Friend, Or, Advocate of Truth 1 June 1871

blond fashion doll accessories

Fashion doll accessories

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The accessories, including jewellery, a watch, and parasol, for the doll pictured directly below.

Speaking for herself, Mrs Daffodil thinks that Mademoiselle Frou-Frou’s wardrobe and accessories sound utterly delightful. Here are some photo-gravures of other fashion dolls in extravagant gowns and with lavish trousseaux.

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From the Theriault Auction site.

A doll with a lavish wardrobe, including a fancy-dress jester costume. From the Theriault Auction site.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.