Grandpa Bill’s Doll

I grew up disliking dolls, which was peculiar for a little girl. I had my reasons. As an adult I still don’t care for them. So it’s unusual that the subject of tonight’s Vintage Story post is a doll and even more out of the ordinary that she is snuggled up with me as I write. This vintage girl is special however. She belonged to one of Greg’s grandparents and surprisingly, not to Grandma Ruby. This little beauty was Grandpa Bill’s doll.

Grandpa Bill’s Doll

Bill Moore was a two year old toddler in 1900 when he received the doll, making her at least 120 years old. When he first showed me the doll with the china head, hands and feet, he chuckled. I heard how she accompanied him through the years. Grandpa’s family moved often during his childhood and youth, and it is amazing that this treasure survived.

Why oh why, I wonder now, did I not question him more about his doll? Grandpa Bill seemed quite fond of her and indeed, he cherished her because in his twilight years, he still had her. She was carefully on display in his home when I met her. Her original outfit had long ago been replaced by something newer, however the style of the dress was appropriate for her age. What did he call this doll, as a child? Who gave him the toy? Did his two brothers and three sisters have china dolls as well? If they didn’t, why did he have a doll? There are so many questions that I will never have answers to.

Grandpa Bill’s DollWilliam Rolston Moore, age 2.

What I do know is that Grandpa Bill loved his doll so much that he kept her near him throughout his life. Only when he moved into an assisted care facility, after the death of Grandma Ruby, did he placed the doll into the care of his daughter-in-law Leta Moore.

The doll came to me 20 years later, before Bob Moore passed away. I carefully packed her away in a closet, fearful that she would get broken. However, my philosophy about vintage items is to use them and display them so that they can be enjoyed. The doll made her debut in my home as the central piece in a fall vignette, in 2014.

Grandpa Bill’s Doll

Tonight I researched the origins of Grandpa Bill’s doll. I discovered that she is most likely a Hertwig lowbrow china doll from Germany.

The Hertwig Porcelain Factory, located in the Thuringian town of Katzhütte, Germany, made porcelain products from 1864 until the factory closed around 1950. Doll parts were made from 1865 on.The earliest shoulder heads may have been made of unglazed porcelain. Hertwig is most noted for their Nanking-Puppen, or lowbrow dolls, made with nanking (brown cotton) bodies, stuffed with cotton, with bisque or china limbs.

Grandpa Bill’s DollTwo lowbrow china dolls. The blonde ones were created specifically for the American market, around 1900.

Grandpa’s doll looks like the blonde lowbrow model, with the heart shaped mouth, light colored eyes and brown brows. His doll has the brown cotton body with china hands and black painted china boots.

And here is the interesting correlation. I know, from Greg’s recent genealogy research, that Bill Moore’s maternal grandfather came from Germany…the Hesse region. Henry Siegfried arrived in the US by way of New York City, New York, in 1854. Henry’s daughter, Lillian Ida Siegfried, became Bill’s mother.

Is it possible that the doll belonged to her and she gave it to her young son? Or did Lillian or another Siegfried relative purchase the German made doll in the US, because of its connection to their native country?

Grandpa Bill’s Doll Bill and Ruby in 1917.

Grandpa Bill’s DollGrandpa Bill four years before his death. He rode a stationary bike five miles every day.

If only this old girl could talk, I’d have the answers to my questions. And then I’d have to pack her away again, because a talking doll would not be acceptable to me!

She has won me over though. This cherished childhood keepsake has helped me to move past a long held fear of mine. I featured the doll in fall vignettes at first. Gradually she appeared in other groupings all over my house. And when she’s not gathering admiring glances in wooden sieves or old suitcases or Christmas vignettes, she stands on my bedroom dresser.

That’s a big deal for me, to display a doll in my room. I had a chat with her and asked her to behave, or back into the closet she would go. She’s been the perfect little lady and I have an appreciation and an affection for her now.

I hope Grandpa chuckles over his doll still and visits her while I sleep. I want him to know she is cared for and loved. Perhaps he will whisper her name into my ear and tell me more about her in my dreams. Until I hear otherwise, I will call her Lillian, after his mother. Grandpa Bill’s doll…she’s a treasure indeed.

Grandpa Bill’s Doll

Hand Décor

If you Google the words “hand décor” you get images of hands…in different poses, made from various materials. They are artistic, for sure. However, years ago the words were used to designate that an art piece was made “by hand”. Often those very words were written across the backing board on a framed work of art or a pottery base, along with the artist’s name and a date.

My feature items tonight, for a Vintage Story, are two hand décor pieces that I have hanging together, although they are very different styles of art. These pieces came from the home of Greg’s parents, after Bob passed away and the house was being readied to sell. I call them the Butterfly and the Rooster.

Hand Décor

Because they came from the Moore’s home in Arkansas, I thought both pieces were made by Greg’s mother, Leta. This sweet and endearing woman possessed a very artistic soul. She was always creating something. Having watched her complete many needlework or crochet projects over the years, it has been my honor and my privilege to bring Leta’s art into my home.

Hand Décor

I witnessed the creation of the crewel embroidery butterfly. The date written on the back is 1985, well after I joined the family. I have several embroidery pieces made by Leta. She seemed to enjoy this kind of detailed, intricate work. Crewel embroidery uses a heavier wool thread, creating a nice textured look. This type of needlework has been around for at least 1,000 years.

I love the butterfly. It was my symbol several years ago and I feel a connection to this piece. The colors are still bright and I’ve lately cycled back around to appreciating warm vivid colors.

The rooster is a fun piece, made from a variety of seeds and beans. I believe my mom made something similar to this when I was a child, so I knew this art piece was older. Dried beans and seeds, some painted, are arranged on a board and glued down. The finished work of art is then coated with shellac to protect the beans. I estimated she made this fine rooster in the 1960s.

Hand Décor

I could easily read the name and date on the butterfly. However, age had faded the writing on the back of the rooster bean art work. Standing near the window to catch the evening light didn’t help however a powerful flashlight did. I realized the name on the back was Ruby Moore, not Leta Moore. Ruby was Greg’s grandmother, and Leta’s mother-in-law. The date was barely legible: January 1964. More words were written next to Ruby’s name. Frame handmade by Bill Moore. Bill…Greg’s grandfather, Ruby’s husband.

Although I was surprised to discover the rooster wasn’t made by Leta, I love the unwritten story that this vintage piece tells. I believe the bean art must have been a gift to Leta, who collected chickens and roosters. Because both the artwork and the frame were hand crafted, it speaks to me of love and affection expressed to a daughter-in-law.

Hand Décor

I like being the keeper of these art pieces. They remind me of the artists…two strong women with very different personalities, who held in common a love for art and creating. I’m glad that I had the opportunities to watch them as artists. Ruby Moore was still making things and stripping furniture up until her death in the early 90s. Sadly, Leta Moore had Alzheimer’s the last nine years of her life. As her world shifted, she created less and less.

Clearing her house I found projects that she started and was never able to complete. I have unfinished embroidery and needlepoint pieces that still have the threaded needle slipped into the fabric, mid stitch. Although I feel sad when I hold these hand décor pieces, there is a stark beauty and a poignancy contained in the art that bears witness to the passing of time.

I felt inspired tonight, holding the Butterfly and the Rooster in my hands. I could imagine the two Moore women, one standing on either side of me, smiling and expressing joy that I delight in their hand décor. I could feel their enduring love and those twin sparks of creativity that burn brightly and never die.

I think it’s time for me to create something new.