We have a number of 19th and 20th century dolls in the collections; a few, including Kathryn Brown’s bisque and composition baby doll and Billy Hazard’s much-loved composition and fabric “Earl,” have been featured here before.  Today we have a doll of similar vintage to those two, but of different construction: a wood-bodied, metal-jointed Schoenhut doll from the 1920s. R2001.20.09 waving hello

Albert Schoenhut of Pennsylvania patented his “All-Wood Doll” in 1911. The metal joints allowed these dolls to be easily posed in relatively realistic ways. As his patent description explains,

My invention relates to toy figures, manikins, jointed dolls, and the like, and the object of my invention is to provide a structure of this character with means serving to articulate the several members, such means being of a character as to insure the maximum degree of friction whereby the several limbs and portions of the same may be turned and held in various positions assumed by such turning operations without danger of disarrangement except at the desire of the person using the toy, doll, or jointed figure.  In addition, the means which I have provided for articulating the structure are so arranged as to insure movement of the several limbs substantially in accord with the movement of the several limbs of the human body.

In simpler terms, a child could have Dollie stand on one leg and she’d stay that way until it was time for a new pose. A 1921 advertisement in Scribner’s Magazine shows several energetically posed dolls, and touts these features of “the world’s only educational doll”:

Made entirely from wood.  Painted in enamel oil colors which can be cleaned with a damp rag. Fully jointed with the new patented steel spring hinge, with double spring tension and swivel connections. No rubber cord whatever. Full joints at wrists and ankles. A unique foot pedestal by means of which the doll stands by itself. Real mohair wigs – blonde or Tosca or carved hair handpainted. Eyes either fixed or movable. Either conventional or natural child faces.

Our particular doll is a 15” model, with a “natural child face” (also known as a “character” face) and a Tosca (reddish-colored) mohair wig. The maker’s mark is inscribed on her shoulder blades: “Schoenhut & Co., Pat Jan 17 ’11 USA and Foreign Countries.”  Like most survivors of childhood play she’s missing some original features, including her union suit and foot pedestal, but she’s otherwise in pretty good shape.  She’s dressed in a cute purple floral swatch (the fabric is not actually sewn into a dress), topped with a cape and bonnet crocheted from white wool, and has some gold-colored bobby pins in her hair.

R2001.20.09 closeup

The doll – unfortunately, we did not get its name – belonged to Frances Brown Brosius, born in 1919 to Carroll and Isabelle Brown of Forest Glen.  In the early 1920s, the Browns moved to the Neelsville area (between Clarksburg and Germantown), where Mr. Brown managed several local farms. Frances attended Cedar Grove Elementary School through seventh grade, then went to Gaithersburg High School.  (She may be one of the students in the photo below, showing Cedar Grove students in 1927; anyone recognize her?)

MCHS Library collections, from Denise Wilson

Cedar Grove School, 1927. MCHS Library collections, from Denise Wilson

Mrs. Brosius lived in Silver Spring after her marriage, and in 2001 she donated a large collection of her family’s farm tools, household goods, toys, and other pieces (here’s her father’s fish) to the Historical Society.  This doll came with a trunk, some doll-sized furniture and accessories, and a few other pieces of clothing, saved from Mrs. Brosius’s childhood – and perhaps played with by her own children. The 1921 Schoenhut ad begins, “The child’s greatest tragedy is the breaking of the new doll or of the old favorite. . . . A Schoenhut doll will outlast [cheaper dolls] many times over.” Unlike many of the dolls in our collections, this young lady is still sturdy and unbroken – Mr. Schoenhut’s promise would seem to have held true.

To see a few other examples of Schoenhut dolls, here’s a bit from everyone’s favorite antiques show featuring four dolls from the 1910s. Right now you can also see our unnamed young lady in person, on display in the Beall-Dawson House children’s bedroom.




Today we have a ceramic teacup and saucer with an extra feature: a partial cover, attached to the rim, with a semi-circular opening. This addition had the highly specific function of running interference between the hot beverage in the cup, and the drinker’s facial hair.  In short, this is a mustache cup.

The invention of a cup with a mustache guard is attributed to English potter Harvey Adams, in the 1860s.  Mustaches were very popular in Europe and the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and like many other fashions, they inspired inventors and manufacturers to create new tools (don’t forget our mustache curling comb). Our example has no maker’s mark, but based on its history, the cup is likely an American-made piece from around 1900.  The design is relatively plain; to enjoy some more elaborate examples, of ceramic and silver, try an image search on your favorite search engine or auction site.

This handy utensil helped prevent soggy and stained mustaches.  In case any modern mustache-sporting readers – who’ve soldiered on through life without a special coffee cup, thank you very much – might think their forefathers were a bunch of wimps, remember that Victorian- and Edwardian-era facial hair styling often required the use of wax.  A piping hot beverage in close proximity to a quantity of mustache wax could result in a cup of melted-wax-flavored tea, not to mention an unfashionably limp mustache.

This particular cup was donated by Mary Beth Fleming; it belonged to her great-grandfather, Charles Clark Waters (1866-1934) of Neelsville. We are also fortunate to have two photos of Mr. Waters, which rather delightfully provide visual evidence for the cup’s necessity.  Here he is in 1890 (left), in a portrait taken by Bachrach & Bro. in Baltimore, and circa 1910 (right), taken by Clinedinst in Washington, DC.  As always, click the image to enlarge.

Left: Courtesy Mary Beth Fleming. Right: Donated by Charles and Marian Jacobs.

Left: Courtesy Mary Beth Fleming. Right: Donated by Charles and Marian Jacobs.

Mr. Waters appears to have favored the curled-ends handlebar style of mustache (though he could have been experimenting with other styles for the 20 years between photos, of course).  Judging by other historical examples – including patterns featuring the words “forget-me-not” or “remember me” – mustache cups were popular gifts.  Perhaps Mr. Waters’s wife or children presented him with this cup and saucer one Christmas or birthday?

Today we have a small cut-glass jar, with sterling silver cap, 4 1/4 inches tall. The size, style and material all indicate that this piece came from a ladies’ dresser set.  The pierced cap is engraved “MJG 1900,” and features a nifty little tab (“patent applied for”) that can be moved aside to allow the jar contents to sift through the holes when desired. 

Objects with highly specific functions – from fish slices to cooper’s froes – are some of my favorites, and 19th-20th century dresser sets (also known as vanity sets and, originally, “toilet sets”) are filled with such pieces, each with a carefully defined role.  Dresser sets were marketed for both men and women; depending on the cost and the anticipated gender of the user, they might contain anywhere from three to thirty-plus pieces: powder puff box, hair receiver, hair brush, comb, cloth brush, hat brush, velvet brush, manicure tools, curling iron, talcum powder dispenser, glove powder dispenser, mirror, soap box, buttonhook, shaving brush, razor strop, shoehorn, toothbrush, cologne or perfume bottles, a myriad of jars, bottles and boxes for your lotions and ointments, and a tray or box to contain it all.  High-end versions were made of glass and/or silver, or sometimes ceramic; later, celluloid and other plastics came into play. The pieces were often monogrammed, fitting in with their  highly personal (and sometimes expensive) nature.

That brings us back to our particular bottle.  “Powder dispenser” is really too bland a name for this elegant little piece, but unfortunately it’s hard to be more specific.  Faceted jars with silver lids are common in late 19th century sets, but I’ve yet to find a match for this particular dispensing lid.  The applied-for patent is eluding my search (if it was ever granted).  Antique shops tend to hedge their bets when it comes to this kind of item, calling them “sugar or powder dispensers.”  The various bottles and jars included in larger dresser sets were of the fill-it-yourself variety, for rouge, powders, lotions and tonics of your own choosing.  (The 1881 Lord & Taylor catalog offers as “Toilet Articles” Vaseline, Bandoline, hair-oils, pomades, hair-tonics, toilet-vinegar, dentrifice [tooth powder], nail-powders, and smelling salts.) My best guess for this piece is that it was designed for talcum powder, with an inventive lid that didn’t catch on with the public.

This jar was donated by Mary Beth Fleming; it came to her through the family of her mother, Marian Waters Jacobs. “MJG” is almost certainly Mary Jane (Sellman) Getzendanner (1844-1901) of Barnesville, whose daughter Maude married Charles Clark Waters (Maude and Charles were Marian’s grandparents).  Mary Jane, known as Jennie, spent the last few years of her life with her daughter and son-in-law at their Neelsville farm “Pleasant Fields.”  (For photos of Mrs. Getzendanner, visit the Monocacy Cemetery project website.)

The heavy glass jar, sterling silver cap and ‘fancy’ dispensing method make this a rather high-end, if plainly styled, piece. The inclusion of the date, 1900, on the engraved lid may indicate that this was a special gift.  What the occasion was (perhaps simply in honor of the new century?) or what Mrs. Getzendanner used it for (talcum powder? Sugar? Medication?) is, sadly, unknown.  But happily, the Waters family held on to the jar, giving us some insight into the family’s means and lifestyle.

Below: Pleasant Fields, circa 1900 – around the time when Mrs. Getzendanner lived there.  The house, now owned by M-NCPPC, is still standing.  Photo donated by Charles and Marian Jacobs.