Q: One of my grandmother’s aunts made this picture in Baltimore, probably in the late 1800s or early 1900s. I received it about 1955. Was the making of these a common craft, or is this a rare piece?
A: This is a charming and attractive piece of handiwork that can trace its roots back to the early 19th century.
In 1830, Philadelphia’s Louis Antoine Godey (1804-1878) began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book. Before the Civil War, it was known as America’s most popular and one of the (if not the most) expensive magazines, with subscriptions costing $3 a year. The magazine was designed to attract the attention of American women and was intended to entertain, inform and educate.
It is said that the issues of the magazine chronicled the history of Victorian fashion from its beginning to its close in either 1878 or 1898, depending on the source consulted.
Godey’s readers were so captivated they often cut the fashion pictures out of the magazine and framed them for both decoration and inspiration. Sometimes, enterprising women would add fabric and ribbon to the silhouettes.
Godey’s was an urban and rural woman’s connection to what was au courant in Paris and elsewhere. The magazine’s readers were so captivated they often cut the fashion pictures out of the magazine (and others like it) and framed them for both decoration and inspiration. Sometimes, enterprising women would add fabric and ribbon to the silhouettes of the images taken from Godey’s.
This tradition continued in the first half of 20th century, when for 10 cents consumers could purchase ribbon kits that were sold with fashion images that were close to paper dolls. The idea was to take the ribbons plus other fabrics that might be found around the house, add human hair (or mohair) and adhere it to the card stock paper image to create a fashion “doll,” usually reflecting styles from the 18th or 19th century.
Today, collectors call these vintage ribbon dolls, and they can be found offered for sale in the $35 to $125 range, depending on condition and how elaborate they are. The one in today’s question from the 1920s or ’30s appears to be in good condition but is a fairly standard version. It should be valued for retail in the $50 to $75 range.
Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a high-resolution, in-focus photo of the subject.