Composition Doll Repair

1920 Smoking Bed Doll

This 1920 Smoking Bed Doll was a social declaration of the Woman’s Movement and women independence.  Fashion was no longer the tight constricted hour-glass figure of the past, but loose fitting, unrestricted to mirror society changes in woman roles.    Women no longer retired to the back rooms while the men had their smokes, but  smoked right along side.  This 1920 smoking bed doll was made with a composition head and all cloth body with the typical extra long arms and legs for positing.   Her custom outfit reflects the flapper era as well as the Art Deco period.  Made of burgundy rayon, the flapper dress is accented with mink cuffs and stole with 1920 brass button accent.  The Art Deco style bead work is featured on the cuffs and drop waist as well as headband.  No respecting flapper assembly would be complete without and ostrich feather! which accents the headband.

1920 smoking bed doll in chair

Wow! I need a smoke after that beauty treatment!

   Before smoking bed doll  After face 1920 bed doll  Before front view 1920 bed doll
    Before side view 1920 bed doll  After face 1920 bed doll  1920 smoking bed doll

Composition Doll Repair Information

Composition doll repair information and restoration of composition dolls can range from simple repairs to a complete restoration.  Simple doll repairs include rebuilding damaged doll parts, restringing and craze control or repairing body parts like fingers, toes and other broken parts.  A major or complete doll restoration can include stripping the old finish, patching and filling, an iris transplant for crystallized, foggy acrylic eyes, wig restoration or replacement and, of course, maybe new doll clothes.

Composition Character Doll

A composition character doll is one of the more interesting composition dolls to work on because they do not follow traditional form for other dolls.  In looking at a character doll you immediately notice the personality of each wonderful face.  This composition character doll had been in the same family since purchase and had been stored away for many years.  At some point pieces and parts of the head fell away and someone tried to save it by filling in the missing pieces with gobs of filler and assorted glues and them painted over the whole thing.  To bring this composition character doll, affectionately called the Dutch Boy, the composition had to be completely stripped to the bare wood and missing pieces has to be refabricated to match the original head.


Charming 1920 composition

character doll restored

to original condition.

composition character doll dutch boy
       composition character doll before composition character with primer composition character after
composition character dutch boy composition character doll back with primer composition character doll side view of dutch boy
composition character dutch boy composition character doll dutch boy composition character dutch boy complete
composition character dutch boy composition character dutch boy composition character dutch boy

Effanbee Patsy

The impish Effanbee Patsy family of dolls  were  brought to life on Valentine’s Day 1929.  Made of all composition and being painted in brown, oriental  and flesh colors, the dolls  were incredibly popular with their side glancing eyes, cupie mouth and able to stand alone.

This doll had typical issues with the paint lifting from contour areas on the composition. Typical areas are the sides of the nose, eyes, dimples, corners of the mouth, navel, ears and contours of the arms and leg sockets.   Doll owners bring the dolls in due to a crack here and there, not realizing that the crack represents an opening of which, under is lifted.  Even if there is no crack as yet, if you look carefully you can see that the paint has lifted and bubble is now present.  By pressing the bubbled area the paint pops, breaks and reveals the composition underneath where it no longer adheres.   Shirley Temple is another popular doll where this is generally present.

Effanbee Patsy doll close up

Completed Effanbee Patsy doll with replica clothing and oilcloth shoes fabricated by Antique Child Doll Restoration.

Patsy face before Effanbee Patsy face after restoration
Patsy side view before Effanbee Patsy before

Boudoir Bed Doll

This 1920’s composition boudoir bed doll had some real issues with large cracking and lifting on the face.   Her original hair was human was very dirty, quite thin and had come unglued from her head with large areas of the composition showing. The human hair wig was a replacement from the original mohair.  The full restoration included taking the finish to the original  composition and starting from scratch.  She also got a new mohair wig done in a 1920 bob that a typical flapper of the period would have worn.


Boudoir Bed Doll before restoration Boudoir Bed Doll after Boudoir Bed Doll after

1930 Composition Baby

This 1930 composition baby doll is an early one with metal decal eyes.  Her  composition head, arms and legs were held together with band aids and electrical tape. When removed, the composition showed a lot of damage and was cracked, separated and highly unstable.  After extensive filling, she was able to be restored to a very cute doll.

1930 Composition Baby  before showing side of head 1930 Composition Baby  after side of head
 Composition Baby  back of head  Composition Baby  after side of head
 1930 Composition Baby  full body  All done with cleaned body 1930 Composition Baby

1930 & 1940 Composition Ventriloquist & Puppet Dummies

Called toy ventriloquist figures, the first two composition ventriloquist dummies have a string coming out the back of the neck, which works the mouth. Each of these ventriloquist dummies are a bit different, with the first, Dapper or Dummy Dan has a movable head as well as the pull string. His body is hollow and there is a slot in the back of his original coat to insert a hand to operate his functions. The second (Winston, a Charlie McCarthy doll) having only the mouth mechanism, works by the pull string and a spring.  His head is immovable.  The third, a marionette puppet, Howdy Doody, is operated with the aide of a cardboard triangle above him in which the strings that operate his frame, arms, legs and mouth are attached.

The problems were universal with these toys.  Because of the deep contours in their faces, the paint had lifted, split, chipped and dried.  Each face has been redone, careful to duplicate the original. The bodies have been cleaned and a few pieces of fabric were used, but essentially they are original. Winston was purchased on Ebay and was said to be haunted.  There was an elaborate testimonial in which the seller talked of objects moving and the meter to detect electrical impulse went off the chart when applied to his chest.  He also spoke to the seller, but she had no idea what he said, except he told her is name was Winston (apparently the name of his original owner).  At any rate, Winston has yet to show me any of that.  I suspect he is pretty happy now. 

Dapper or Dummy Dan is

from the 1930’s. His finish

was lifted and cracked and

his mouth had lost its spring.

He has a free floating head

that turns from side to

side with a hole in his back

for initiate movement.

He has been restored and

still wears the original

clothing. Totally charming!


Dapper Dan ventriloquist doll
Dapper Dan ventriloquist doll head Dapper Dan ventripoquist doll head Dapper Dan ventripoquist doll head
Dapper Dan composition ventriolquist doll  Dapper Dan composition ventriolquist doll Dapper Dan composition ventriolquist doll
Howdy Doody was a popular

child’s TV show from 1947-1960.

This Howdy Doody is a marionette

with a movable mouth. He has

multiple strings so (for a talented

operator) he can do almost any

movement.  He has all original

clothing so what he really needed

was his lifting and cracked paint,

in his deep facial contours, restored.

 Howdy Doody composition puppet head  Howdy Doody composition puppet head
Howdy Doody composition puppet head Howdy Doody composition puppet head Howdy Doody composition puppet head
This doll was an ebay find, said to

be haunted, talked  to the seller,

moved things, flashed lights, etc.

Scared her and her family. The doll

told the seller his name was Winston,

as was the original owner.   Winston

is actually a Charley McCarthy doll

and has been restored. He must be

pretty happy sitting and watching

the doings in the studio with Dan

because he has yet to talk to me

or move anything.   He is very




 Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll  Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll
 Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll  Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll
 Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll  Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll  Charlie McCarthy composition ventriloquist doll




Unmarked Composition Baby

Made by the zillions, this inexpensive American unmarked composition baby doll is a favorite because of the cute expression and sturdy structure.  One of the problems with this type of doll is that, because of the mass production process, the last coat of paint is often thin and wears at the toes and fingers as well as flakes and fades from the face.  The owner of this doll (well husband) had this doll restored for his wife’s 75th birthday as it was her childhood favorite as well.

Unmarked Composition Baby

Before, charming painted Googlie eyes and painted hair

Unmarked Composition Baby

After photo of the facial after restoration

Unmarked Composition Baby

All finished and ready to go home. She is dressed in a yellow voile flowered dress with matching hat.

Composition Shirley Temple

Nice 27″ composition Shirley Temple doll came  in her original box.  Her wig was in original set and she had her original button.  She also had her original school girl dress and under clothing.  It was  first thought that all she needed was repair to a split in the composition  near an eye.  A closer look showed facial bubbles.  The split and bubbles would mean more repair work.   There was  bubble lifting near the nose and around the mouth. The dry paint on the lifting chipped away easily.   The majority of her face was involved.    The composition Shirley Temple  was restored to  original.

Composition Shirley Temple eye photo with bubble

Shirley Temple composition eye bubbling

Composition Shirley Temple facial areas of bubbling

Shirley Temple antique composition doll with facial crazing and bubbling

Composition Shirley Temple done

Shirley Temple composition doll after restoration. Craze control was utilized on the body.

Composition Shirley Temple face complete

Close Up of Shirley Temple face after restoration

Colored Composition Baby

Made in the 1920’s, this early colored composition baby has been stored away for a long time.  When brought out the finish on this colored composition baby had cracked and released from the composition, literally causing the doll to fall apart.  The doll had to be totally stripped, filled, sanded, repainted  and restored.  To complete her outfit she now is wearing a custom baby outfit made of lightweight batiste  cotton fabric with rayon ribbons to ties her bonnet.  She is now ready to take her place in a valued addition to the owner’s doll collection.

colored composition baby
colored composition baby face before colored composition baby face before
colored antique composition baby face before colored antique composition baby face before

Composition Horsman Doll

This painted eye composition Horsman doll was made circa 1920.   Horsman was a large doll company, signing their doll E.I.H,  out of New York.  They manufactured composition dolls of all types as well as distributed French and German dolls.  The baby doll paint has cracked and lifted excessively on its body as well as the facial decorations had flaked off.  Fully restored, this cute Horsman baby doll will outlive a couple of more generations of doll appreciation.

EIH baby Composition Horsman Doll  Composition Horsman Doll
Composition Horsman baby Composition Horsman baby doll repaint of face  Composition Horsman baby Doll all done

Composition Happy Baby

This is a typical big composition happy baby doll from the 1930’s.  A composition Happy Baby restore is a long process because of the size of the doll and the many contour surfaces that have to be sanded to a smooth finish.  Composition babies were very popular because of their size, happy faces and cuddly bodies, sold through the mail order catalogs and large department stores, the composition baby was a must have for any lucky child for over 20 years.

1920 composition Happy baby restore

1920 composition happy baby restore
1920 antique composition baby doll 1920 compositiony baby doll

1920 Mama Dolls

These treasured composition 1920 Mama dolls had been in storage for some time.  The finish was completely cracked on both dolls with extensive lifting of the paint.  The eye mechanism in one doll was held in place with a large screw in the forehead that was covered by a wig.  The dolls had been well loved and then discarded, only to be found again by new family members who wished to add them to the keep sakes to be passed down to other family members.  Both 1920 Mama dolls dolls had a complete restoration with the composition stripped and reapplied as well as their bodies cleaned.

1920 Mama Dolls complete composition restore blond before Mama Doll complete composition restore blond before complete 1920 Mama dolls

Mama Doll complete composition restore bruenette beforeMama Doll complete composition restore bruenette before


1920 Mama dolls

Effanbee Bubbles

Effanbee Bubbles before

BEFORE Effanbee Bubbles with paint lifting, peeling, and chipping

Effanbee Bubbles before

BEFORE with some paint removal and patching

Effanbee Bubles AFTER

AFTER full restore

The Effanbee Bubbles baby doll was very popular and made in several sizes.  A popular doll today, the Effanbee baby dolls are a good investment in restoration.  A common issue with the Bubbles is that the composition finish splits at the seams and because of the many contours of the face and hands, the composition lifts and cracks in those areas as well, requiring a refinish of the surface and smoothing of the lifted areas.

Painted Eyed Composition

painted eyed composition doll

BEFORE composition head paint lifting and cracking

After Painted eyed composition doll

AFTER cute face restored

Before, painted eyed composition doll.

BEFORE Note home made body with VERY long legs of cloth

Antique composition head on home made cloth body

AFTER with replaced appropriate body and head restore, dressed in original family doll clothing.

1930 American made painted eyed composition doll that had extensive paint lifting and peeling.  At some point in her life she had lost her legs, so her owner fashioned her cloth ones that were much too long for her composition child body. The finish was removed and she underwent a complete restoration, which included the finish of her composition as well as cleaning of her body and clothing.

Ready to Send Your Doll?


Janie Nafsinger
17122 W. Locust Lane
Caldwell, Idaho 83607

Process & FAQ
 Process & FAQ

CLICK here to find out how the process works from sending your doll, completion time, payment info and shipping.


Just wanted to let you know that I found a stand for Dolly, and put her on my antique side by side in my bedroom. She is my favorite china :0) I pinned...

Bobbie Pearce
(see more photos in before and after section)