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Around 1891, Martha Jenks Chase of Pawtucket, RI, turned her talents as a seamstress and household manager into a successful doll-making business. A doctor's wife with Progressive ideas, Chase judged the china and bisque fashion dolls manufactured in Europe inappropriate for children because they encouraged a desire for material things. Imported dolls were also too fragile and too heavy for child's play. Chase also objected to the American-made mechanical dolls that walked, talked, swam, and ate. She felt the inventor's interest in technology overwhelmed a child's imagination to make the dolls "come alive." To counter these deficiencies, Chase made her own dolls of stockinet (a cotton knit commonly used for undergarments), molded and stiffened with sizing and painted with insoluble paints to make the dolls washable. Their cotton stuffing (many dolls of the day were stuffed with sawdust,) also made the dolls lightweight, soft to the touch, and more desirable for doll play. The Chase company made play dolls into the 1970s.

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  • Title: Doll
  • Creator: Martha Jenks Chase
  • Date Created: ca. 1910
  • Location: Pawtucket, RI
  • Type: Dolls from the Early Twentieth Century, Cloth and Rag Dolls
  • Medium: cotton, oil paint, fabric, stockinet
  • Object ID: 77.2873
  • Artist: Martha Jenks Chase

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