Tuesday, December 22, 2009

22 December 1955 "Dolls and Apologies"

I thought it might be interesting to look at what toys might be under the tree this year for children.

This ad shows the idea of the money down, pay off your gifts. The concept of spending beyond your means to provide things for you child is really beginning to grow. Christmas as Commercialism is really beginning at this point in the decade. I am sure the few years right after the war, Christmas was very much about being home, together and sharing in family. Yet, here we are over 10 years past and the mass production of toys (easier now with the increased production of factories during the war and a war torn Europe and Japan to get cheap labor).

Every little girl usually loves a doll. At this point in time dolls were very much an example of what a young girl would be expected to be when she grew up, a mother. But, it was too change in four years, with the advent of Barbie.

It is interesting to note that up until 1959 (with the advent of Barbie) the dolls being produced for girls since the 1920’s were primarily baby dolls. Particularly in the 1950’s even the ever popular ‘Bride Dolls’ had a somewhat baby-doll look. One could say that a young girl, at that age, would often find herself playing at ‘being mother’. Then, in 1959, when Barbie was introduced, the element of nurse-maid help-meet was replaced with the concept of you ‘becoming the doll’.

Then, you would put yourself in the place of the doll, with her perfect and rather racy figure (she was actually modeled after a ‘sex figure’ doll based on a popular cartoon from Germany called Lilli .

Many mother’s at the time were very against Barbie and found her too racy and too ‘grown up’ for their children. Before Barbie, a little girl would play mother to the baby doll, or if she wanted to imagine herself the doll, she would imagine herself simply, a little girl or, again, the mother to a young girl. Her wardrobe was not ‘grown up’ in a ‘high fashion’ way. The accoutrements of such dolls were also about taking care of a child or being responsible for its well being.

This has become an interesting concept to me this year to think about. I, myself, loved Barbie, but by the time I came around, any ill feelings towards the doll had gone and she was just a normal part of childhood. But, in the historical context, it does draw an interesting parallel between a young girl playing at ‘helping others’ or becoming a grown up responsible for a child as compared to being a young sexy woman with expensive clothes, boyfriend and a fast car. It is really a very symbolic entrance into the 1960’s. Now, I am not saying I am against Barbie, but when you consider what she has become to represent to girls, that at the time young mothers found it rather daring to play with such a doll, could you imagine their response today to what little girls actually wear themselves? Was it part of the ‘making over’ of the modern woman? Was she being prepared to care more for her looks and possessions than to care for others? Interesting to think about, non? I think it would be fun and intersting to talk about it more and to see that even the toys that were made played a role in who we were to become as Americans as the decades of the 20th century rolled by.

Now, I have been SO buy as I found myself rather behind due to my illness. I am even, today, still making Christmas cookies to give to our neighbors. I also have to finish wrapping my gifts and prepare for our Christmas Eve Party, which luckily is not held at my house this year (we take turns with our family). Every year we do a different theme for our this family party some of which have included the 1950’s, Victorian Christmas etc. This year the theme is Japanese. Our gifts are themed to that and we dress in our interpretation of the theme. As Japan was beginning to play a major role in the us at this time, it is easy enough for me. So much of modern interiors were highly influenced by Japanese culture and I have many Japanese recipes in my 1950’s magazines. Many Japanese war brides returned to with their American G.I. husbands and a neighborhood may have contact with such a wife who would introduce them to tea ceremony, sushi, and even ichibani-the Japanese flower arranging style. But, I digress…to say the least, I am rushing about to get ready for our Christmas day as I spent almost three weeks of this month being almost bed ridden.

I had hoped to do so many wonderful posts about homemade gifts and cookies and food for the holiday season and do feel bad for not having got to it. I do hope you will all forgive me that. I will try, tomorrow, to post some fun images and recipes from my magazines, though it is rather late, it might make a fun Christmas Eve post and one can never start thinking about the next holiday too soon, right?


  1. Sorry, the normal software I use to post was not working and I had to revert to just using Blogger and it never quite puts things where I am want them. I also realize that tomorrow is NOT Christmas eve and that I have one more day for that!

  2. Look what I've made tonight:

    I've just started, but already translated (very quick translation, so no laughing pls) most of my December posts. More to follow. I still need to work on the layout and find a statistic counter. But now I'll go drink tea with DH.

    Have a lovely day, dear. :)

  3. For some reason, I never liked Barbie as a child. I received many of them as gifts or passed down from relatives, but I just hated them! All my friends loved to play Barbie and thought I was strange for not caring about it.

    My sister and I just played for many years with the same dolls, one each. I was the mom and she was the aunt. I just always played mommy with my dolls, I guess I emulated my own mom a lot. I think Barbies have become ridiculously sexy today, which led to the worst of all: the Bratz dolls, ugh!! Little girls grow up too fast...

  4. A very interesting post. Seems like only yesterday,sigh! I hope you have a great Christmas and a Happy 1956!

  5. hope you are feeling better!

    i used to love barbie (ahem used to..?) and that advert is amazing! ("You know it's mattel, it's swell!"fabulous ;)

    very interesting about playing "mother" vs "being the doll"...hmm.

    and last but not least: happy christmas!! are you going to go straight into 1956 next year?

  6. Glad that you are feeling better. I always like playing mommy to my baby dolls more than playing with barbie for some reason. I think the whole concept of today's girlhood seems to make them want to be seen as sexy and grown up. Not children and innocence - it is sad really. I was shocked when I was told by my sister that her then 9 year old thought she was too "old" to play with dolls and she was into make-up and clothes and techo (ipods nintendo) Shoot, I played with dolls until 12 or 13 I think.

  7. I am not 100% sure if next year will just be 1956 or if I might put a different spin on it. I have decided to think on it and on my Jan 31 1955 post 'reveal' the new years project.
    I am feeling better but still not 100 % I can't seem to shake my cough and still fighting fatigue!
    Angelena-I too played with dolls well into 13 or even later. As a matter of fact, I'd probably play with them now, had I daughter to use as an 'excuse' to do so! I can't believe 9 is too old for dolls! And makeup at 9! Seriously?!
    I have been thinking how much, like art and media for instance, that the study of a generations toys can help to deciper and understand where they were at the time and what may have attributed to their ideals they then carried on into their 'grown up lives'. Very intersting stuff, indeed. At least for me, but we homemakers have the time to allow our minds to contemplate and wonder as we work our lovely jobs throughout the day. Another advantage to the career, I believe!

  8. does anyone have a betsy mccall doll? i have my mom's from when she was little. it's so cute! and i also have all the clothes my great-grandmother, great aunt and grandma made for her!! quite a treasure. i never had but one barbie growing up, as my parents didn't like her much either. i played w/her a bit, but not as much as my BIONIC WOMAN DOLL! now that chick had powers! :) i also had china dolls which i adored and old fashioned ones that i collected. interesting post! have a great Christmas all you lovely ladies! and a wonderful new year~whatever year it happens to be in your heart! many blessings to you all!

  9. Your Mccall doll must be lovley and how nice to have a wardrobe of homemade clothes for her. A real treasure and certainly worth passing down. I did play with Barbie and had some of my older sisters original Barbies (which would be worth a fortune today, of course) and had a Ballerina Barbie that I loved. I was always mad that my generations Barbies were all blondes and I would constantsly use water color to dye my dolls hair red.

  10. You know what strikes me most about that ad? The prices are very similar to what one might expect to see in a circular for Sprawl-Mart and its ilk today for toys that look similar at first glance but won't work or last a tenth as well. I know I've seen plenty of trucks and stuffed animals around the $5 mark in the big chain stores.

    You don't even need to go back that far to find the good quality stuff. I received the Hungry Hippos game in my stocking back in 1982 or '83 and that game lasted for years, even survived my sister AKA the toy killer. I purchased it for my son for yule this year and the heads keep sticking, the balls don't get swallowed properly, and it just feels much less substantial.

  11. Interesting about the moms not liking the Barbies! My own daughters do not own Barbies for many of the same reasons! We have lots of baby dolls in our house though.

    We are very conservative christians, and homeschoolers, and many people in that circle prefer to not allow Barbies for many of those reasons as well!

    And although many girls nowadays put the 'dollies' away by agge 8 or so, my girls are homeschooled and watch *very* little television, and most of the kids they interact with are very 'innocent' compared to many children nowadays. So my daughters, ages 11, 9 and 6, still play with dolls, as do their best friends, ages 12, 11, and 6.

    I played with dolls til I was 12, then put them away because I was afraid all my friends would make fun of me. I still made up stories for them in my head though, and wrote them down in a notebook.

    My husband and I want our kids to maintain that innocent childhood era as long as possible. There is no need to 'grow up' so fast as many kids do nowadays.

    We really do try to raise our children very 'old fashioned' with very little television, not so many toys etc.

    My mother was one of 6 children, and she was the youngest, born in 1950. My aunts (born in the 40s) all remember Christmas as very special, but they did not receive tons of toys, all the 'stuff' from nowadays. They told us they got one toy, and then their stockings usually had an orange, an apple, and maybe crayons and some candy. They *might* have gotten a new dress or shirt if the grandparents had a good year financially.

    And they were THRILLED to get 'so much'!

    Love Mrs P

  12. As Bob Hope said,"thanks for the memories." I had four sisters and none of us had a Barbie. But, your post reminded me I did have a Mrs. Beasley doll.She was from Family affair. I also remember a smoking bear. Yes I did say smoking.(i think it was my brothers and we would laughed at it)
    I did give in to the Barbie love. One day I was out shopping and there she was lovely dresses in pink and called the birthday Barbie(Libra) Well I had to buy her. It was only a couple of years ago too. Designed to get you.
    I played with Dolls until I was probably 13 too.( I remember wanting to be married with children.)I hope the nine year old was playing with make up and not wearing it in public. Nail polish and lip gloss only maybe. I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas, With lots of great memories.

  13. Like many of you, I was way more into playing "house" with more realistic baby dolls.

    I had Barbies, but I don't think I could figure out how a full-grown lady could be so small. LOL. Baby dolls were more life-sized.

    Never did enjoy playing Barbies like some of my friends did.

    Mrs. Tailleur: I also had a Mrs. Beasley doll, with the glasses (and my dog was named Buffy).

    Great post, as usual, 50sgal. Even through illness, you give us so much to ponder!

    I remember one ad a few years ago, for a cell phone company, I think that said:
    "Christmas is all about getting what you want."

    Aaack!! It is? Is that what Christmas is all about??? What knucklehead ad person wrote that? Made me sick to my stomach.

    Merry Christmas Apron Revolutionaries!!


  14. I had Barbies growing up, but I never really "played" with them per say, as in I never pretended different scenarios with them or talked in made up voices for them. I just liked changing their clothes and brushing their hair. ;)

    I do remember my mom trying to make clothes for them because we couldn't afford to buy new ones, and me feeling embarassed about it and not wanting my friends to see them. I was already programmed to think that "new was better" even at that age.

    I didn't know that when Barbies came out there was backlash against them by mothers, but put in that context I can understand it. Much like how many mothers today are against the Bratz dolls (with good reason). I always wonder, "What next...pole dancing dolls?" I mean, really, where is there left to go with dolls? Even the new Barbies are coming out now with more of a "Bratz" look to them, facially. Sad.

    Don't worry about the lack of Christmas posts; you can always do them later, who cares if its after the holidays? As you said, never too late to start planning for next year! Merry Christmas and have a fantastic time at your family's get together! Will you keep your 1955 persona as you dress for the Japanese theme?

  15. I never played Barbies until we moved when I was 7. My friends at my old house and I played baby dolls. My new friends were VERY into barbies. I only had a couple of them (my parents just couldn't afford them really) and I recall playing with them. I didn't like "pretending" to be barbie as much as I lved dressing them up: In the clothes my mom made for her. Which were all VERY modest and old fashioned. I didn't like the "flashy" stylized stuff you would buy. I loved the stuff my mom made. Any one else remember the "Sunshine Family" dolls? I had a couple of those as well.

    We stopped with the barbies around 11 or so, when we became obsessed with rollar skating. I had a pair of red white and blue skates my grandma bought me that I literally wore all the time from sun up to sun down and used them until they fell apart.

  16. Lorie Bronson:

    I don't remember the Sunshine Family dolls (I looked them up to see a photo).

    I had a Crissy doll (the one with the hair that grows) and two Sweet April dolls. I loooved the Sweet April dolls with all their wee accessories like high chair, bed and playpen.

    Yay dolls!


  17. "Yet, here we are over 10 years past and the mass production of toys (easier now with the increased production of factories during the war and a war torn Europe and Japan to get cheap labor)."

    Most of the toys were made in the United States in 1955. My father was a mold maker who was highly skilled in hand engraving. He used to joke that he was "Santa's helper." He made a lot of injection molds (or worked on them in his department) for toys. Most of the molding itself was in the United States as well. The 40's, 50's, and 60's were the "glory days" of the plastic industry in the United States, especially toys.

    We did not purchase Barbie dolls for our daughters for the same reason(s) that Mrs. P mentioned. Play is "serious business" for children, and Barbie did not fit our criteria. We also eliminated toys that had batteries or electronics. We weren't against plastic (how could we??), but some parents are, preferring natural materials for their children's toys.

    During the time when Barbie's popularity was gaining, I was given two hand me down dolls. They were small, had hand crafted cases and beautifully sewn home made clothes. I loved them! They were Ginny Dolls. They never replaced my baby dolls, but they were a wonderful addition. I never was a slave to fashion or fad.

    No Idle Hands

  18. I liked the Barbie dolls but I liked the Darci dolls even more. Darci was a fashion model and a little bit bigger than Barbie that came out in the early 80s. I would design and sew the clothes for both and did so up until 8th grade. I only stopped because I stopped taking art classes. I was allowed to draw the designs of both the clothes and patterns of the fabric. Sometimes I would have to paint the design onto the fabric so the porportions would be correct. My friends loved and admired what I did so that made it easier.

  19. OH what a interesting post Thanks no Idle hands for tell us about your dad.
    I think my favorite dolls were cloth and hand made by grandma, with lots of dress parts. Jacket,vest,etc. When I got older a little I did enjoy making doll clothes too. Great to think not only mothering skills but also sewing and fashion.
    I hope some day I have granddaughters I can make dollies for. I what to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Holy Holidays.

  20. Wishing you a very merry Christmas! :)

    I loved the Barbie commercial, it reminded me so much of my own childhood. I have never owned a real Barbie, since my mother could not afford it, but I had a great look-a-like.

    You're forgiven, since I know you will live in 1956 next year, so I can look forward to reading a lot about the fifties and translating your lovely recipes.

    Now I've been to bath and will soon get dressed and put on some vintage-styled makeup and go to my SIL, who's making the Christmas Eve party for us this year. She is as Christmas crazy as I am and a VERY good cook, so I look forward.

    lots of Danish e-hugs

    PS: Hope you find time to visit the English version of my blog one day:

  21. Happy Christmas eve all! Thank you for all your warm wishes and hope all have a great day!

  22. Merry Christmas everyone!
    I hope that all of you will have a blessed day tomorrow!

    Greetings from the Netherlands

  23. Merry Christmas, Donna and all of the Apron Revolutionaries! I hope you all have a blessed holiday season full of wonderful memories and joy.

  24. Merry Christmas 50's Gal,

    I had alot of dolls growing up, including Charlie's Angels, Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue doll, Cindy doll and yes I even had Barbie's......

    But with my doll house, I centred my play around Barbie being the Mommy and Ken being the Daddy, it really was very innocent, I remember playing with Barbie till about 11 or so.

    Now the Bratz dolls are just horrendous and over the top, oh and can I even begin to mention my five Cabbage Patch Kids I still have in the original boxes :)
    Since I have boys, I am saving them to give to my future grandkids who will hopefully be girls.

    Have a blessed Christmas and New Year,
    Mom in Canada

  25. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! :)

  26. The first time I saw bratz dolls in the store I almost keeled over. We have chosen not to do Barbie with my daughters also, but the bratz dolls are just over the top! I almost keeled over once again, when I saw in the Simplicity pattern catalog, patterns for Bratz doll costumes for your precious little girl. Oh my word! doesn't anyone worry about enticing pedophiles? The little girls in the Bratz costumes looked like street walkers. Make-up to the hilt and platform shoes, mini-skirts and midriff exposed. I think the little girl in the ad was all of 6 years old.
    Amy F.

  27. So enjoyed reading this post—a little late—days after Christmas. I was also sick for many weeks—it's good to finally be feeling better...

    I had the Betsy McCall doll mentioned by Kelly—so cute—wish I had saved her. One of my first dolls was a Polka Dottie from the Howdy Duty show—I do still have that one though she is in rough shape. One of my six brothers recently asked me to forgive him for burying her in the dirt while playing with his friends one day.
    I did have the first Barbie but was not thrilled with her—I found it very frustrating to dress her and make clothes for her because she had so many sharp points and curves (!)

    My very favorite doll was given to me Christmas morning 1956! I wish I knew what kind it was—I would love to find another one. I posted the story for Christmas Eve with a picture of the doll at the end..


    Sadly...the doll ended up "dismembered" by one of my brothers years later. He was studying mold-making and used her arms and legs to practice. If he hadn't grown up to become an amazing sculptor—I'd still be mad at him!
    ...thanks again for the memories! : )

  28. Hello!
    I have stumbled accross your blog whilst researching 1950s weddings for my University Dissertation. I'm particularly interested in the bridal dolls page you have featured and the change you observed from looking after baby doll, to projecting the future image girls aspired to be onto their dolls.
    Any chance you could tell me the magazine in which the bridal doll page featured?
    Many thanks!
    Lindsey las38@sussex.ac.uk

  29. This is a good reference post. Vintage Barbie's is the new thing today. The video alone is really interesting.

  30. A fabulous gift idea that any mom & grandma links of london sale would be glad to accept is a mother's ring. There are countless styles to pick from london links charms and every one permits each of a mother's children's birthstone to be placed in the ring so mom & grandma can remember her children wherever she goes.Jewelry links london bracelet that is personalized or engraved makes great jewelry gifts for mom. You can have a particular word or meaningful expression engraved inside a ring, necklace or bracelet links of london earrings to demonstrate to your mother the depths of your feelings.Stylish watches are an additional idea for great jewelry gifts for mom. Your mother sweetie bracelet needs a stylish watch to go with her favorite outfit and perhaps even a few to go with her entire wardrobe.Another example of mom's & grandma's jewelry that makes a great gift is mother's earrings.

  31. I think you make a good point about the digression of our little girls. I never had a real Barbie doll growing up. My mother thought they were too racy. I did finally get a fake one when I was about 12. My mother finally thought I was "old enough." Anyway I never really liked dolls that much. What amazes me is my granddaughters have piles of Barbies and all the stuff that goes with them. And my seven year old granddaughter weighs herself every day to see if she has lost weight. Scary. Poor little girls these days, I am glad I grew up in the 50s and 60s.

  32. I am the owner of at 1950's bride doll. Received it in January, 1957. before having my tonsils out. I was 6 years old. I had the doll "cleaned up" in 1982 by a local doll lady, even using pieces of my mother's bridal dress to replace the tattered original. She did a great job on her. I loved that bride doll as I was growing up.

    It sits, in a stand, in our bedroom and her arms have started to become a bit gummy feeling. Then today, as I was looking at her, I realized how she so represented post WWII America, where every woman was suppose to want to be a bride. And how Barbie, who came out a few years later came to represent the "ideal" American woman who could be anything she wanted.

    I'm a big fan of "Mad Men" and you can just this female dymanic in that show.

    That's my 2 cents worth.

    Great Lakes Kate


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