Friday, October 26, 2012

1880's Stage Performer German Paper Doll by L&B

I've previously posted about the Prima Donna paper dolls L&B (Littauer & Boysen) produced at the end of the 19th century and continued to manufacture into the early 20th century.

To my knowledge there are only 3 official "Prima Donna" aka Bloomer Girls by L&B.
Today I'm sharing the "Red" one from my personal collection.
This doll stands 14 1/2 inches tall in her assembled state. 
She can be found in several sizes and this is one of the larger ones.

Supposedly Dennison sold a pre-assembled version of her in 1905 at 16 3/4 inches.
(the assembled dolls sold by Dennison had their limbs permanently attached with eyelets).
The Prima Donna paper dolls by L&B also came in a 9 3/4 inch size and the mini 6 inch size.

Vintage L&B "Red" Prima Donna Jointed Paper Doll with Torso
 The Pair of legs that came with this doll still had it sheet tag number still attached.
Originally this pair of arms and legs as well as the doll heads would have been sold by L&B in a sheet as a set of 3 dolls.  Sometimes you are lucky and can buy uncut sheets of the Prima Donnas.
Depending on the style and size of the dolls the sheets have different numbers.
L&B #2783 are 7 inch legs that are used to create the 14 inch assembled dolls.

It is possible that depending on the year they were printed those numbers could be different
but that's speculation on my part; since, I don't yet have multiple uncut sheets of the same parts to verify this possibility.  I do know that some of the uncut sheets have circular id tags and others have rectangular ones; that too might be an indicator to the print date as well.  

I'm sure L&B's numbering system makes sense once you figure it out; but here is an interesting example to mull over.  Here are two totally different sheets of limbs by L&B both are #2781
One sheet (Ballet) has the rectangular tag #2781 the other (PD legs) has circular tag #2781
 I never before thought to keep track of limb sizes and numbers before now but 
I will going forward since my curiosity has now been peeked.

If you know the answer to these questions regarding L&B #'s please let me know - grins.

Here is what one uncut Prima Donna doll sheets to make the 14" dolls looks like.
Vintage L&B Paper Doll sheets of Heads and Limbs - Uncut #2783

 Ya, I know you've seen these dolls lots of times before, since they are the most common 
of the L&B jointed paper dolls to still find out there; but I've had a bit of fun altering them 
so you have something new to see and play with.

 Here is a sneak peak of one of the altered EKD versions you'll see further down in the post.

EKDuncan Altered Victorian Paper Doll in a new color and with a new hairstyle
 I was tired of using my vintage dolls in their original colors too, so I created several 
alternatives for a change of pace.  I also wanted to give her a more pleasing hairstyle.  
I hope you like her as much as I do.


L&B's articulated lady dolls were produced starting in the late 1880's and represented some of the top "stars" of the day.  The images of those performers on these dolls would have been easily recognizable to purchasers at that time; just as an image of Marilyn Monroe would be known by most who viewed it today.

Sadly 120+ years after the fact, these ladies of the stage have been a bit difficult for me to identify.
I've found very little information about these dolls out there to help me with my search.
A few I've purchased had the names written on the back of the torso or the seller had an idea who the lady in question may have been, but other dolls have have sent me on quite a quest just finding possible identifications for them.  This doll seems to be Lillie Langtry aka "Lily" Langtry.

It appears Mrs. Langtry has two spellings for her first name and she signed her name "Lily" sometimes and "Lillie" at other times, so you may come across her name spelled either way.  
Most of her "actress photos" show Mrs. Langtry when her name is printed on the card,
 to muddy those waters a bit more; but it appears she went as "Lillie" in England and "Lily" in America. She was also known as the "Jersey Lily" so for this post I'm spelling her name as Lily.

Vintage Photo of Mrs. Lillie aka Lily Langtry 1853-1929
Lily began her stage career in 1881 and was adored by the public. 
She also led a rather notorious life; having many affairs, including her 1877-1880 
attachment to the  Prince of Wales who later became King Edward VII . 

She acquired American citizenship in 1897 and her popularity on two continents 
was so wide spread that The Who's 1967 song "Pictures of Lily" was about her.
The key lyrics in the song that inspires that belief is
 "Son, now don't be silly. She's been dead since 1929...if only I was born in Lily's time."

She has been a character in several novels and many scholars believe she is 
"Irene Adler" in the 1891 Sherlock Holms' story "A Scandal in Bohemia"
Her life story has also been portrayed in movies several times over the years.
I'd say the lady defiantly had "Diva" status in her day and beyond, 
making her a prime choice for "Prima Donna".

More photos of Mrs. Langtry can be seen at the NYPL digital gallery - HERE
and at the Victoria & Albert Museum - HERE


2 Large Lily Langtry L&B paper dolls from my personal collection
Here are two individual "LL" paper dolls in my L&B collection and as you can see they are just slightly different one from the other.  L&B produced these dolls starting in the late 1880's and they continued to be sold for the next 20 years.  I know they were still being sold in their pre-assembled with eyelet form in the Dennison 1905 catalog and I've had one source tell me 
they were still for sale in the Dennison 1907 catalog as well.

I believe the parts for these two dolls were made years apart.
The upper doll is very bright and sharp in color-detail; and the pressboard it was 
embossed and cut from is about twice the thickness of the lower doll.  
The lower doll is also made of a clay composite pressboard but is of a much thinner weight. 
Her colors are also of a softer palate as are her printed features.  
Based on this I think the upper doll is older than the lower since her quality grade is higher.
They are both still great examples of L&B paper dolls just made at different times.

On an earlier post I was pondering the possibility that this lower doll with the label on her torso may have once been owned by a collector who had these two very rare dolls I hope to one day own.
2 Rare L&B Dolls owned by Jan McKay - photographed at the 2008 Paper Doll Convention
I know it's a simple white label on the doll torsos but the size, shape, font, wording and even the zigzag looking left edge match.  So I have to assume that at one time or another all three of these dolls passed through the same individual's hands -whomever that might be, is still a mystery???

Sorry - I wish I had nice images of these two to share with you but this is the only photo I've seen of them. If I'm ever fortunate to have them in my collection, I will share them with you too - grins.

OK Back to Lily and her new look.
Before and After views of one of my Lily Langtry paper doll heads including the new hair style I gave her.
I'm not sure how "white" the lace may have originally been on the doll when it was first printed but I suspect that somewhere in the past 120 years my paper dolls has probably "yellowed" a bit with age. Being "Bloomer Girls" I thought the white of her lace and pantaloons could use a bit of brightening up, so I spruced her up a bit in several ways till I got a new look for my old doll.

Here are the new versions of Lily Langtry "Prima Donna" Bloomer Girl

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll with new hairstyle - Red/Pink

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle - Aqua

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Blue

 EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Green

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Lilac

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Periwinkle

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Rose

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Silver/White

EKDuncan Altered Prima Donna paper doll in a new color with a  new hairstyle -Pewter/Grey

I hope you enjoy the new versions of this doll as well as all the others I've created.
If you have missed the beginning of this series you might want to catch up by starting - HERE
There are still two other Prima Donna dolls to come so check back in a little later on 
and don't forget to see the Halloween Treat I'll be posting at the end of the month.

Till Next Time...


  1. Hello,
    Oooohhhh!!! I love the pink paper doll with petticoat panties! It's always interesting to read about the artist ladies which are related to paper dolls; thank you for giving us all this information.
    Thank you soooooo much!!!

    1. Hello to you too,

      You are so welcome Sylvie, I'm glad to share my dolls and what I know about them with you.

      One of my biggest struggles in collecting them has been the lack of information on these L&B dolls. As I find bits and pieces and try to fill in the blanks, I post it in hopes that it may help another collector or might cause someone who knows more to affirm or correct me in what I've posted. Either way I'm making an effort that some knowledge about these dolls is easily accessible to others. I just find them fascinating.

      Thanks for letting me know you are enjoying the journey and the stories I believe each of these dolls tells.


  2. Hi Evelyn,
    I have always loved these dolls and other art dolls. My mother loves them too and buys re-created ones for me when she sees them. Thanks to finding you through the Graphics Fairy I can make them for us and friends. You truly are blessed with wonderful treasures and I thank you for sharing them with us. Fun fact about Lillie Langtry...Her "real" name was Emilie and that is why the 'ie' and 'ly' are always switched. European and American spellings. She was English and as an 'Emilie' myself I love that she was too. What an icon!

  3. Hi Emilie - I'm so glad you are enjoying the dolls. I can't get enough of them myself and hope I'm lucky enough to keep adding to the collection. I also enjoy the mystery of discovering what I can as to who each doll represented and a bit about that "diva's" life. Lily's life was most interesting both in England and then later here in the States. She was a pioneer and did it her way all the way. Thanks for including the extra info on her name.