Alrighty, Moon Girl, compose thyself and focus. This week's post is an example of not one but TWO rules that I made for myself and then broke. Firstly, I said that I wasn't into baby dolls and that proved to be a big fat lie. And secondly, I swore that I'd never own a composition doll. This vow stems back to a doll that I saw during one of our family's many antique mall trips. Said doll was about twenty inches and had a lovely face, but she was covered from head to toe in hairline cracks (known among compo lovers as "crazing"). I knew from my doll magazines that this was normal for composition dolls, but I also knew that if not taken care of the crazing would develop into cracks and the doll would start shedding paint. I hated the thought of all that maintenance and promptly swore off composition dolls completely. Then First Uncle gave me two compo babies that his friend's mother had owned (these became my Creepy Babies)...and I bought another large baby on my own free will (Lili Marlene)...and that was the end of that rule. I still don't have a ton of composition dolls since they can be pricey, but I've grown to like the medium. Composition is an odd material, somewhat like a love child between paper and plastic. It's lightweight and it looks, feels, and sounds like high-quality plastic; when tapped with a fingernail it makes a clicking sound, rather than the "clink-clink-clink" of tapped porcelain or the "thump-thump-thump" of vinyl. Composition is also a bizarre combination of sturdy and fragile, meaning that a composition doll won't shatter if dropped like a bisque or resin doll will, but it will chip, crack, and scuff over time. Most importantly, composition absolutely, definitely, positively MUST NOT GET WET, because water makes composition deteriorate faster (this includes humidity in the air). Thus it's fairly easy to find compo dolls that look like this little gal. That particular doll has since been put right as rain, but restoration is a complicated process and can be pricey. It's an expense that may doll collectors are willing to take though, since a good restoration will extend the life of the doll quite a bit.
So there y'all have it. For all its pitfalls composition was a good alternative to the easily broken bisque, and since it was used for much of the first half of the 20th century there are a lot of composition dolls out there. They're not all babies, of course; they ran the gamut in age from baby to adult, but today's post IS a baby. She's a doll who has made a few appearances in the past, usually for the sake of a comparison. Since I've reviewed three other dolls that were close to her in size, I figured she deserved a review too. This is Anita.
her own composition baby up for viewing. Her cheery little doll is showing its age like composition dolls tend to do, but she sure is cute. Tam doesn't know who her rosy-lipped little baby is, and I have no idea who Anita is either, so we're in the same boat in that respect. Anita is clearly marked "HORSMAN" on the back of her neck, but she doesn't match any of the Horsman dolls I've seen online. The other babies I've found online are usually too big, too old, too young, all-compo, all-rubber, or they're obvious character dolls that have different faces. So Anita presents a bit of a conundrum for me, one that I hope someone can help me fix. If any of y'all have any ideas as to who she might be, or if you know someone who knows a lot about compo dolls, I'd be delighted to hear from you.
It might help if I knew a bit more about Horsman, of course. I do know that Horsman is an old company, dating back to 1904, and they're still in existence, producing fashion dolls like Urban Vita and Rini. Now to the review. As I said above I only have a handful of composition dolls, and out of that handful Anita is the smallest...unless two of next week's dolls really are composition like their tag said. Here's how Anita compares to Tommy (one of the Creepy Babies), who is about the size of a three-month-old...
Lili Marlene (possible Baby Precious, right).
Baby Peep, Kathy Cry Baby, Pussycat, and My Child (doll shown is Pussycat).
Being close in size to Pussycat and the others would mean that Anita is about fourteen inches from head to toe. I'm unsure if Anita ever had a wig, but the shading of her head suggests that she once did. Otherwise Anita has molded hair like Baby Peep's, and like many, many of her composition companions.
Back to Anita now. Anita has silver-blue eyes with rooted lashes.
The eye mechanism makes a rattling, scraping noise when I move Anita's head, so I suspect that something has come loose in there causing her eyes to be off-balance. Notice that Anita has no eyebrows, by the way. Dolls without eyebrows can look a little freaky (Jaylin and Emerald the Enchanting Witch come to mind), but Anita looks more grumpy than freaky. I often call Anita the Tardar Sauce of my collection, in fact...or the Kristin Stewart, take your pick. Here's how she compares to one of my more cheerful dolls, the Gerber baby.
rocker bottom feet (a bad sign on a real baby), but they are recognizable as feet and have fairly well-defined toes.
Sometimes rubber gets gommy and sticky as it ages, but Anita has dodged this bullet for the most part and I'm glad, because it was these rubber joints that made her stand out from the other dolls at the store. I know that some composition dolls had body parts that were made of rubber or plastic or vinyl, but I'd never seen one in real life before I landed Anita. Okay, take that back; Tommy has rubber limbs. Unfortunately, Tommy's limbs are in pretty rough shape so I can't enjoy them as much as I do Anita's. See how he's got duct tape on his knees and black patches on other parts of his limbs? That's normal, but it doesn't look very nice.
Since I don't know who this baby is, I can't give a judgement on how accurate her clothes are other than that they're old and appropriate for the age that Anita is supposed to represent. She's got a dress and a matching little bonnet.
The fit is okay, but that red washes Anita's pale head out. I like this better on her since it has a bonnet, but I can't leave her in it because Kathy would have nothing to wear then. So for now Anita is stuck in her tired old original clothes...but frankly, I think this look suits her best. There's bound to be a way to repair the damage, at least so the dress won't fall apart as quickly. So what do I think of this old baby? Let's see...
*The composition is in slightly rough shape, though this is to be expected on dolls of this medium.
*Limbs are discolored, though again this is age related.
*Clothes are starting to fall apart
*Eyes won't shut readily
*Dressed appropriately for a baby doll
*Eyes are still clear; composition doll eyes sometimes cloud over, as we'll see in weeks to come.
*Body is sturdy, free of large rips and tears
*Vinyl limbs are holding up well
*Composition head is in much better shape than that of another of my dolls (poor Sally).
Most of Anita's flaws are related to age rather than to poor construction or factory foibles. She's showing dirt, crazing, and minor wear all over, and her clothes are tattered in a few places, but other than that she's a perfectly sound doll. Do I recommend her though? Well...not if you're looking for a specific doll. Though Anita is marked I've not been able to identify her, and indeed she may not even have a name beyond "mama doll," as these dolls that cried were often called that (they'd shriek "MAMA!" if they fell or were tipped in a certain way). BUT...if you're not looking for a specific doll (and I wasn't) then this little doll is great! She's not too big or too small, and she's not hard all over like some compo dolls are so if you like to cuddle with your dolls (I admit that I sometimes do) then she's up to the job. I may not know which little doll Anita is, but I'm happy to have her along for the ride.
Now...time for that promised music binge!!! I think I'll add "Ride My See-Saw" and "Bye Bye Love" to the playlist because...well, why not, that's because.