FEMINA number 23 of January 1st, 1902






 THE BIRTH OF A DOLL

by Léo Clarétie
     Here, we are arrived at the time of the year when the doll is  queen. The girlfriends of " Fémina ", their older sisters and their moms doubtless will  find some interest in this article and in these funny documents which will introduce them to the mysteries of the creation of dolls.
      To make a doll today, it is necessary to found a society, a "trust" with a capital of 4 millions of francs and to have big factories to Montreuil, to Picpus, to Montempoivre, one of the most picturesque names of old Paris, to make a million business a year, and to occupy six thousand workers.


   
Here are preliminary necessary for the creation of these charming figurines which escort  January and the day of the year,

« When old January shoulders draped
 By along coat of snow and followed by dolls
  Of magots, marionettes, midnight ringing runs up....»



     There is dolls and dolls. Any of the social organizations would  give an idea of the disparity of castes among this little people.
    In our societies, the ladies are different between them that by the price of their dresses, without which they would be all about built on the same model. It can even arrive that one poor girl is more attractive and better made than young one and rich heir.
    It is no the way so in Poupitrie ( Dollqueendom ). There, each have her place and stayes inexorably in her  position. There is no means "to reach". A small doll of "one sou " which has for arms and legs only the ends of matches would make in vain wishes to heighten of a notch. The degrees of the ladder are unbridgeable. The antique distinction of the slaves, hilotes and citizens was an amicable fusion near the rigour which presides over the classification of dolls.
   There are those who are born in the forests of Vosges, Jura, Saint Claude; they are made by small stiff pieces of wood, a fast bow puts them suddenly too much carmine in cheeks, darkens hair, and a simple little point pierces their eyes in spin, - 0,05 F hundred !. The blue eyes are more expensive, cost themselves 0,06 F, not by gallantry for the blondes, but for a secondary reason: the blue color flows more.



     Among the most miserable, it is necessary to quote the mignonnettes made dirt-cheap in prisons, where big criminal hands make of the enjoyment for the small innocents.
What distinctions, which are not subtle ! The common doll does not move either arms or legs, and her head is in cardboard. If her means allow it her, she will have balls for kneecaps in knees; she will be  articulated in hips and in elbows; the neck could turn; her hair will be of thibet; But the eyes, stuck inside with a touch of melted stearin, will be incapable in their fixity to express any of the feelings of her soul.

     Richer, she will have in the head a little lead, which will allow the eyes to get up towards the sky and to fall towards the ground. With some francs furthermore, she can close them and sleep; but it will be forbidden to her to sleep up, however tales we made her. The sleep will spread on her its « poppies «  only if she is lying.

    It is already necessary to belong to a caste brought up enough to be able to slide glances to the right and to the left, and make eyes in wings.
    Such is the picture of social classes. The impossibility to pass from one to other one makes these young persons resigned and docile, and there is no example of revolution begun to make tip over castes.

     The cradle of the doll is modest. It is a tank where strong men mix and brew a hideous cataplasm dough where we do not know what ingredients, raclures of skin of gloves, fish glue, sawdust, which mold mixers helixes of which are activated by the drive belts of the steam engine.
     The men fill with this nauseous dough some buckets which they are going to empty in auges, where other muscular lads fill with it grindstones of steel which they present then to a heavy iron pendulum which strikes a massive table. Every blow makes an arm, a leg, or a trunk. These thick members fill  baskets, horrible to be seen, and are then cast in drying room. It is there that they acquire resistance and hardness.


     We here is in the assembly. From the crochetterie, the assembler brought brass hooks, rubbers, which are muscles and tendons in the a little bit special anatomy of these young ladies.  
       The talent of this modest artist consists in decorating the busts of their members.
Limbed, muscular, the young lady is spent in the pink shrimp color, and hung  in the drying room.
       It would not miss her any more much, if she had the head.
      A head in the particular physiology to this little world contains three elements: the face, the eyes and the hair. They are made in very different workshops.
    The face has its origin in a tank full of a beautiful white dough as milk, which is the purest kaolin. It flows by a faucet into the moulds where it dries. It takes out a head without occiput, similar to a tobacco jar without lid : then it cooks  and it becomes solid, then at last, it is " decorated ", that is the china cheeks received pleasant one pink.



  But the empty orbits much damage the expression and make dream of the Oedipus King's fifth act. Fast, let us give to them eyes.
   The eyes of dolls are glass; they are the work of skillful glass-making artists who work in a darkroom and mold the fusible glass at the end of fine stalks of steel in front of the flame blue and sibilant of blowtorches.
   To the nearby workshop, eyes join their orbits and, according to the social condition of their owner, they are fixed or mobile according to laws and price so unchanging as laws explained by Platon in the myth of Barrels


     It does not more remain than to paint eyebrows and lashes. The more the doll is noble, the more its lashes are fine and carefully painted. 
     Do not lose sight, however, that our young person has always the gaping and opened skull. It is blocked with a skullcap of cork coated with strong glue. The wig  will be fix ed on it  with small nails, without that the young lady protests against this a little bit cavalier and rough way of her plantation
.
     A wig is a hank of thibet curled not by iron, but in  oven. It is necessary to see the agile fingers of the worker spreading the wool, displaying it, rounding off it within time which it is necessary to write it. A good " perruquière " makes one thousand wigs in her day.
     At last, it is question of dressing her. It is the small reasonable woman who will know how to proportion her expenses of dress in her resources, in which she will give an useful and wise example to her future small mother for the future.
     She gives work the same corporate bodies as the ladies of the world; she has shoemakers, linen maids for stockings and pants, needlewomen, milliners, jewelers and hundreds of alert fingers work to adorn her, to assure her this Parisian chic which will be worth to her throughout the world the smile and the admiration of all the most courteous peoples of the universe.


                                                                    Léo Clarétie







The author
    Léo Clarétie is the author of an inescapable work, for us the amateurs of dolls and antique toys, entitled "Les Jouets, Histoire et Fabrication  ", published in Paris by " Les Librairie et Imprimerie Réunies ", which has for subject to reveal to the children  the seamy side of this set. The author wishes to take them on the other side of " the shop window where hang the red marionettes " and make them discover " the back shop where work the workers ",... " the workshop where toil the cheaters "...
   
Embellished of several hundreds vignettes and of 13 gravures, plate, this book of which 6 magnificent in colors, was the price of girls' domestic professional municipal school of Paris. It allows us to rediscover the story of toys and their modes of manufacturing at the end of the 19th century.
    The first part of the work is dedicated to the story of  toy since the Antiquity  to the collections of the end of the XIXth century, where the mobile cardboard marionettes were all the rage.

The second part is interested in the manufacturing of toys since " the enormous factory which surmounts its big chimney of brick, up to the poor stocked garret. "
In the article above appeared in 1902, it is Jumeau factories of Montreuil who are exactly described in a very realistic way. Jumeau and Company had created the French Society of Babies and Toys in 1899 ( S.F.B.J.); we always spoke (and we still speak about it moreover - often to wrong as we say Frigidaire for refrigerator) about dolls Jumeau. The enormous production of these dolls gathered a lot  of societies of the same genre which had united to fight against the competition German.
     If you wish to find the soul of the  toys workshop during the 19th century, to study the labor world of this period or simply to discover the evolution of toys since the Antiquity until 18th century, then this book is made for you. These numerous illustrations give us an outline of the toys of our ancestors and of our grandparents, an outline of their role in the life and the Society. It is a fascinating work. ( Cf.  Library of the House of the Tool in the heart of the city  Troyes.

                                                                                    Hélène BUGAT-PUJOL


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