Doll:Black-White Topsy Turvy Doll

ca. 1970

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play
Rochester , United States

The topsy-turvy doll has two heads, one at each end of the torso. One of the heads is usually hidden beneath a reversible long skirt. First appearing in the 19th century, the doll type seems ideal for suggesting one character and its alternate identity. Some doll historians think the topsy turvy evolved from the Pennsylvania Dutch hex doll. The head of a man at one end cured warts. The other end, with a head of a pig, cast spells. Other doll researchers note the topsy-turvy's popularity in the American South. These handmade cloth dolls had one head of a white child and one of a black child. This doll led to speculation about why such a plaything existed in a culture where blacks and whites seldom mingled except in harsh master-servant roles. The doll gained its greatest popularity in the late 19th century when the Southern type of doll was mass produced and when manufacturers used the doll to represent characters in classic fairy tales and other stories for children. One doll representing Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf and another depicting Snow White and the Wicked Queen were especially successful. The topsy turvy doll has remained popular for more than a century. Seamstresses have made examples from kits and from their own designs, while doll manufacturers have offered a variety of topsy turvys of many story characters.

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  • Title: Doll:Black-White Topsy Turvy Doll
  • Date Created: ca. 1970
  • Location: USA
  • Subject Keywords: African-American
  • Type: Cloth and Rag Dolls
  • Medium: fabric, Sawdust
  • Object ID: 110.12437
  • Credit Line: Gift of David Ridley of Denver, Colorado and Jennifer Mabardy of Acton, Massachusetts in memory of t