China Doll Types & Era Details

What kind of China doll do you have?

Are you saying to yourself, “I think I have a china doll, but what kind is it?” This section is to familiarize you with china dolls, type and time periods for the assorted models.

China and Parian dolls are similar in many aspects.  Both are made of porcelain with the parians having a flat finish and china dolls with a shinny glossy finish. Most china dolls were made from 1840 to 1930’s with painted eyes, usually blue, but a few had brown painted or stationary glass eyes.  They all had shoulder plate heads that were mounted on fabric bodies.  Most had formed hair in styles that reflected the time period, with a few having a bald head with attached human hair wigs.   75% of  china heads had black painted hair with 25% being blond. 

Arms and legs on both styles were made of porcelain, but leather and cloth were also used. Very few of the dolls were factory assembled, but were sold in separate pieces with the buyer assembling them by making home-made bodies of cloth. Because of this, china and parian dolls vary greatly in proportions causing most clothing to be unique, custom made for each doll.  Typical wear for a china doll would be drawers, a couple of slips and dress. 

Early wigged China Dolls had human hair wigs with round faces to reflect  health and prosperity. 
1830-1880 Wigged China Head
 Same round face with molded hair in spiral curls
1840 Round Face China Doll
The Covered Wagon china doll had the same round face as previous models but her hair is pulled smooth with curls in back.  Her porcelain is a pink tint, starting white then tinted pink  for  a flesh influence. The doll has a pioneer country look, rather than society lady.
1850 Pink Tint Covered Wagon China Doll 1850 Pink Tint Covered Wagon China Doll
1860 Civil War Era Highbrows
The Highbrow model was very popular and  made for more than 20 years.  They appeared beginning 1860 (Civil War period).  The doll in blue is an apple cheek with blush that  was to project good health, but if a real person had that much blush they would have been very sick.  
1870 Currier and Ives China Head 1870 Dolly Madison China Head
1870 was the beginning of innovation with many new styles of hair with ribbons, curls, flowers and braids.


1870 Highland Mary China Dolls 1870 Curly Top China Head
Children china dolls were difficult to tell from adults and are often confused. The faces were rounder, and the neck was shorter than dolls that were to be an adults.   The bodies were also fuller and not as hour-glass in style.


1880 Child China Dolls

1880 Child China Dolls (25% blond)

1870 Boy Child China Doll

1870 Boy/Girl Child China Doll

1890-1930 Lowbrow China Dolls

1890-1930 Lowbrow China Dolls

Lowbrow China dolls were the end of china doll production and made for 40 years. Those that could not afford  the “new” bisque head dolls with ball jointed and leather bodies and REAL hair had to settle for  a “cheap” doll.   China heads were sold in parts of heads, arms and legs through catalogs like Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck.  If the buyer could not afford a factory body, they could purchase arms and legs to go with the head while the buyer made the body, stuffing it with materials at hand, like sawdust or animal hair. If the buyer had only a head, the entire body was often  made from materials at hand like leather and muslin. If a part broke, another could be purchased through the catalogs to make the doll whole again. 



Ready to Send Your Doll?


Janie Nafsinger
17122 W. Locust Lane
Caldwell, Idaho 83607

Process & FAQ
 Process & FAQ

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