29th 2009
Vintage (and creepy) dolls, Brooklyn, Michigan, June 2009

Posted under: American history, art, childhood, Dolls, weirdness

dollmenagerieI’m back in vintage doll heaven in Michigan–and by “heaven,” I mean “my parents’ garage and the local antique malls.”  (And by “antique malls,” I mean “somewhat better than garage sale stuff!”)  So here’s a selection of the fun, freaky, and just plain “why?” that I came across today in just one booth in one antique mall.  I apologize that some of the photos are a little blurry–I had to photograph some of these things through a glass case.  Abundant pleasures await you!  For example, next to the Eskimo doll is a Pepper doll with a crocheted dress in gold yarn with green trim.  Lots more, and more of the weird, on the flip!


dolljoeystivicFirst of all, those of you gens d’un certain age will remember the fabulous Joey Stivic doll, more popularly advertised as “Archie Bunker’s grandson,” who was the first anatomically correct baby boy doll in the 1970s.  Scandalous!  I didn’t open the box, but I rattled it so I’m fairly certain l’il Joey is still in there.  I never wanted the Joey Stivic doll–after all, I had an anatomically correct little brother of my own–but I remember that he was an object of tittering fascination among the under-9 set back in the day.


dollangelacartwrightNext, for all of you TV fans, there was the Angela Cartwright doll from the Danny Thomas show, Make Room for Daddy.  I was reliably informed by my mother, who is an expert in TV history, that she played his youngest daughter in that 1950s and 60s TV show.  Fans of 1960s shows (or re-reuns in the 1970s) will remember Cartwright as the intrepid middle child Penny Robinson on Lost in Space.  (I think her costume in Lost in Space was a little more memorable than this one.)  Did anyone else think that the Robot should have ditched that dithering queen Dr. Smith and dopey Will Robinson to hang out more with Penny?  Maybe it was just me…

dollnunkewpieNow this one is a classic in the “found art” category:  someone long ago fashioned a hand-made tiny habit, complete with a cross at the waist, to make hir own nun doll.  Think you recognize that face?  I bet you do–it’s a Kewipie Doll!  This one is the runner-up for the “Why?” prize, I think.


I would now like to present the winner for the “Why?” prize:  Oreo Barbie.  Yes, that’s right, she’s an African American doll.  Go figure.  The “why?”s are just too numerous to list:  Why would Oreo cookies sponsor a Barbie?  What Mensa candidate dreamed this one up?  We’d be here all afternoon, friends–you can leave your ideas in the comments below.



dollcreepydollinmi1Finally, I’ll leave you with another graven image of my favorite category of dolls:  the creepy disembodied head.  This one is very strange, because it’s not just a head that was popped off of an old doll body.  Somone custom-made a wooden base for it and glued it on–someone who’s obviously a kindred spirit of mine!  There she is, along with the souvenir ashtrays and glass candy dishes.  Awesome!


21 Responses to “Vintage (and creepy) dolls, Brooklyn, Michigan, June 2009”

  1. Susan on 29 Jun 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    Just FYI, Angela Cartwright was also Brigitta in The Sound of Music.
    And the Oreo Barbie? Did they know what they were doing? And if not, they should have. It’s really too good to be true.

  2. Rad Readr on 29 Jun 2009 at 2:49 pm #

    Oh my, do they have coconut and banana Barbie also?

  3. Digger on 29 Jun 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    The Oreo Barbie is the most disturbing, imo. The doll head on a base, not so much… I mean, dolls in general are kind of creepy, but somehow affixing a head to a base gives it some sort of purpose. Um. Yeah. PS: Thanks for the TOOL box; I wish I’d had one earlier today for a meeting.

  4. Indyanna on 29 Jun 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    Check out “Fail Toy Oreo Barbie Doll Review” on YouTube, by one Mike Mozart, a self-described “professional toy designer.” Wikipedia says it was a clueless 1997 (?!?) cross promotion between the two companies that got pulled from the shelves almost immediately and is now a hot seller on Ebay. The doll’s full corporate name was apparently Oreo Fun Barbie. Right, not on.

    Random thoughts: The Stivik kid, from Queens, finally makes it to Brooklyn. Sweet. The nun should have a name I would think. This post was an interesting palate cleanser from Joe Ellis, gone to the dogs.

  5. Historiann on 29 Jun 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Indyanna–that is totally hillarious. (The video is here, for the curious.)

    And, Rad Readr: inspired by the Kewpie nun, I’m going to make a brown doll with coconuts and bananas on her head, just for you.

  6. Rose on 29 Jun 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    Ah, Historiann–glad you’re making the most of your vacation. I’m going to have to take the old digital camera along on our next antique mall (read: flea market) sojourn.

    Off to check out the video, ‘cuz I can hardly believe I’m seeing “Oreo Barbie.”

  7. Historiann on 29 Jun 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Believe it, Rose! And thanks to Susan for the extra Angla Cartwright trivia.

    Digger: yes, affixing a doll’s head to a base gives it a purpose. What will an archaeologist of the future think? That it was an idol for worship? That seems much creepier and more disturbing than if it were attached to a body that could (in theory) be held, dressed up, and played with by a child.

    Seeing doll displays like that always calls mausoleums to mind. It was just too much childhood in the 20th century, embalmed. And who has heard of Joey Stivic since 1978, anyway? My research suggests that he would be about 33 now, and probably scarred for life since his body served as the introduction to male anatomy for 1970s girls who didn’t have brothers. (But as Indyanna suggests above, yes, at least one of him made it to Brooklyn!)

  8. Digger on 29 Jun 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    Historiann, the joke goes that anything an archaeologist can’t identify must be a ritual object. The joke is only funny because unfortunately it has often been true (folks don’t like to write, “And there is this thing, and I don’t know what it is or what it’s doing here.”)

    There’s actually an increasing body of archaeological literature specifically dealing with the whats, wheres, and whys of ritual objects. Curiously (or not) much of the discussion in the US is related to the material remains of African/African American conjure traditions in slave contexts. The ideas that magic and conjure survived into the twentieth century and also existed in white colonial/American cultures is only just starting to get addressed in the literature beyond “and they found some shoes behind the chimney”. Survivals/examples into the 21st century I don’t see being seriously considered (yet), though they certainly exist.

    Anyway, back to the doll head. Without context,I’m kind of left with “Huh. People do weird stuff (cf Oreo Barbie).” Then again, I’m not in the future!

  9. Sisyphus on 29 Jun 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    Oreo Barbie is reminding me of Surf Fun Ken or whatever that Ken model was that had an earring and “necklace” suspiciously like a cock ring. That was 1990, I think — someone must have infiltrated the system! (or several someones — they don’t really have the same motivation.)

  10. Bavardess on 30 Jun 2009 at 3:43 am #

    Disembodied-doll-head with empty eyes is going to give me nightmares tonight. Dolls are right at the top of my creepiness list (along with clowns. The clown doll in ‘Poltergeist’ pretty much sent me over the edge).

  11. GayProf on 30 Jun 2009 at 9:21 am #

    I always thought that the episodes where the Robot, in fits of rage, tried to murder the entire Robinson clan were the most interesting.

  12. Bob on 27 Jul 2009 at 8:30 am #

    This is too funny. I just blogged about creepy dolls, too. My mother-in-law has several, which I took pictures of, here:


    Strange thing is: she’s in Cement City, MI — just a few miles from Brooklyn!

  13. Historiann on 27 Jul 2009 at 8:36 am #

    Bob–that’s wild. Thanks for sharing–I think?

    Who knew that there was a baby doll that looks exactly like Charlotte Rae’s Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life?

  14. Bob on 27 Jul 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Ha – you’re welcome!

  15. barb groff on 27 Jul 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    i have a doll i need information on.i know it came out before the joey doll brcause my mom found it in the early 1970s in a junk store.its a anatonically boy doll the life size doll like the crissy doll.its got a singuture on the back of its head-CLOCKLEY OR CLODREY made in france. it looks like he sigbed it when the mold was soft. its not a stamped marking.my daughter found one on the internet like mine but it looks like a girl doll with blonde hair mine has black hair. i would really like some info in this doll.on the internet all the info was in french .but she said the date for them was the early 1930s to the 1940s. so please anything on the dpll i would like very much.

  16. Historiann on 27 Jul 2009 at 4:29 pm #

    barb–if you send me some links to the French info I can try to translate them for you.

  17. Christmas wrap-up and orange alert, 2009 : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 26 Dec 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    [...] an occasional nip of bourbon.  The local antique mall here is a gold mine–it’s the same place I found all of those dolls last summer.  A few years back I found the two-volume translation of Lafitau’s Customs of the American [...]

  18. Violence against dolls and women : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 10 Jun 2010 at 5:56 am #

    [...] might remember that during my visit to Michigan last June, I stumbled upon a lot of dolls–in antique shops, and in museums.  Well, I almost literally stumbled over this one yesterday as I was out for my [...]

  19. Laura on 03 Sep 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Don’t you like dolls?

  20. Dee on 04 Sep 2010 at 7:10 am #

    The nun doll is not a kewpie doll as stated. And years ago it was not uncommon for dolls to be given to the nuns in convents and they were dressed by them as nun dolls. There were companies back in the 50′s that produced nun dolls but somehow that hand made ones seem to hold a lot more charm.

  21. Historiann on 04 Sep 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Sorry, Dee–this one absolutely was a Kewpie doll.

    I’m familiar with the use of dolls in convents that you note. It actually goes back at least to the 18th century. Dolls in tiny habits were used to illustrate the proper order and wearing of garments in various women’s religious orders, sent by the mother house to ensure that all nuns of that order were dressed identically.

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