Q: I am seeking information on a baby doll. It has a porcelain head with a fully formed skull (no wig) measuring 10 inches in diameter and 33/4 inches from neck to skull. My doll has blue glass eyes with eyelids that open and close as the head moves. The body is made of cloth and is 121/2 inches from feet to head. It is dressed in a white christening gown with knit socks, and there is some damage to the hands. It is marked on the back of the head “AM Germany 341.”
L. C., Lawrence, Massachusetts
A: Sometimes when we see the pictures in a letter — the first thing we look at — we make judgments that may or may not be correct. In this case, we took a fast look and said, “Oh, a Bye Lo Baby. How nice.”
Unfortunately, when we read the letter we discovered our initial impression was incorrect. Yes, it looks very much like the famous Bye Lo Baby created by Grace Storey Putnam in the early 1920s. (Bye Lo dolls are dated 1923 on their neck.)
The sanitized story of the Bye Lo Baby is that Putnam, who was a sculptor, used a 3-day-old baby as the model for her doll. But we have heard the tale, which may be true or not, that Putnam went to the hospital looking for a newborn to be the model for her doll.
The story says she did not find one that suited her purposes until she noted a baby who had just died being taken to the morgue. This baby was so peaceful that it was exactly what Putnam wanted. so she sketched the deceased child. We find little to confirm this tale, but we have heard it so often and for so long that we had to pass it along, for what it is worth.
The doll in today’s question is a Bye Lo lookalike and was made by Armand Marseille Co., which had factories in Sonneberg and Koppelsdorf, Thuringia, Germany. Armand Marseille was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1856, but his father took the family to live in Germany sometime after 1860.
Still in his 20s, Marseille bought the Mathias Lambert toy factory in Sonneberg and the next year acquired the facilities of Liebermann & Wegescher in Koppelsdorf. From 1900 to 1930, it is said the Armand Marseille Co. produced 1,000 bisque doll heads a day. In this case, the term “bisque” refers to a type of porcelain that has been fired only once, leaving a surface that feels a bit like human skin (some people find the feeling a bit creepy).
The 341 was called “My Dream Baby.” (Marseille made similar infant dolls called “Our Pet,” and “Kiddiejoy” or “Kiddie Joy.”) My Dream Baby should have a bisque head with a flange neck and a cloth body with bent limbs. These dolls are charming but not rare, and this one with the damaged hands should be valued for insurance purposes in the $200 to $250 range if the damage is not too bad and unsightly.
Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.