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Image of wooden "Dutch" doll

Dutch doll

Making its first appearance at the very end of the eighteenth century is a type of doll that was to persist almost unchanged for over a hundred years. This was the cheap wooden ‘Dutch’ doll. It even had a rhyme written about it:

The children of Holland take pleasure in making
What the children of England Take pleasure in breaking.

This may be historically inaccurate - a great many toys were imported into England from the Netherlands from the seventeenth century, but all the evidence suggests that the Dutch were middle-men rather than manufacturers. Why Dutch Dolls should be persistently so-called is one of the toy trade’s minor mysteries. The likelihood is that the word ‘Dutch’ is a corruption of the German Deutsh, and that the dolls were never made in Holland at all. One thing is certain: the last surviving source of supply of these rosy cheeked, black-haired creatures is in neither Germany nor the Low Countries, but in Northern Italy. This fact, however, is not as surprising as it first seems, when we remember that the best known wooden doll, Pinocchio, was created in Italy.

Dutch dolls, and other traditional peasant toys were produced over a very wide area, and as a cottage industry. Prototypes were supplied by travelling ‘manufacturers representatives’, who called back in the spring to collect the winter’s work for delivery to the nearest exporting centre. The dolls were sold undressed and young girls would make their clothes from scraps of fabric.

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