Settlers' Dolls - Dolls Made at Home
Decoration   Decoration

The study of settlers' dolls reveals the rich history of the early Canadian pioneers. The ethnic background of the settlers, their creativity, their socio-economic status and the resources available contributed to the wide variety of dolls that existed.

One of the simplest dolls was the stump doll made from part of a tree. A piece of root or a branch was chosen if its shape resembled a person. A face was painted or roughly carved on it, then the "baby" was wrapped in a piece of cloth and a stump doll was born. Wooden spoons were also used to make dolls, with the face painted on the back of the bowl. More sophisticated carved wooden dolls with jointed arms and legs were sometimes created for older children.

The beauty and durability of cloth dolls depended on the talent of the parents who made them. Some had attractive embroidered faces, while others had painted features. Wool or human hair was added, and the clothing was similar to that of the child.

A doll that was popular with boys as well as girls was the dancing doll, sometimes called Dancing Dan or Limber Jack. Its wooden body was jointed at the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and elbows, and had a hole in the back into which a stick was inserted to make the doll dance. It took skill to make the doll move in time with music or a song. This was a form of entertainment before the days of television.

Decoration   Decoration

Smoking soldier doll

ca. 1900
Barrie, Ontario
CMC 77-449

Designed to hold a cigarette in its mouth. The operator could smoke the cigarette through the tube.

77-449 - Photo: H. Foster
68-44 - Photo: H. Foster Penouil, Gaspé fisherman

ca. 1968
Bonaventure, Quebec
Rope, shells
CMC 68-44


Rag doll

ca. 1850
Toronto, Ontario
Leather face, shoebutton eyes, human hair
CMC 78-428


78-428 - CD94-862-025
CMC 84-08, 09 - Photo: S. Darby Twin rag dolls

Linen bodies, painted faces, wool pigtails
Dressed in authentic Mennonite style
CMC 84-08, 09


What is a Doll? | Inuit Dolls from Prehistory to Today | First Nations Dolls
Settlers' Dolls - Dolls Made at Home | Antique China and Parian Dolls
Antique Dolls Imported from Europe | Eaton's Beauty Dolls
The Birth of the Canadian Doll Industry | The Heyday of the Composition Doll
The Vinyl Doll Era | Canadian Original Doll Artists | Mechanical Dolls | Web Sites | Credits