The Travels and Travails of Baby Blanche

Over a hundred years ago in Germany, a small doll came to life as her bisque head was joined to her delicate body and its jointed limbs. She was probably wrapped carefully in excelsior and placed in a wooden box. It was then that her travels began.

It was almost Christmas and she was sent on a boat across the Atlantic to Philadelphia in America. In 1903 she appeared in the John Wannamaker Department store catalog and she was called "Baby Blanche." She was advertised as a "fine jointed doll" and was offered in sizes 21-1/2 and 30 inches, at prices from $1 to $4. She had a curly blonde wig with bangs, probably mohair, and wore a chemise with lace trim, and shoes and socks. Her body was of fully jointed composition.

It was in this catalog that a loving Grandmother and Grandfather spotted Blanche and chose her to be their special gift to a special granddaughter in Cartersville, Georgia.

At the turn of the century dolls were used to teach children how to behave. Through play they would learn the various roles they were expected to play in life. Even the rites of mourning and death were a part of doll play. Children commonly "played" at funerals and "visiting" the sick. Mourning clothes and miniature coffins were part of make-believe ceremonies.

Baby Blanche came to Cartersville when Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States. People used buggies and wagons to get around town, and electricity in the house was rare. In downtown Cartersville, the train depot was being enlarged, and the new courthouse was nearing completion. A new library had also just been completed. In the merchantile downtown, men's silk ties cost 50 cents and an all-wool suit cost $5. A biscuit baking contest sponsored by Knight's Hardware offered a new Bucks Junior Range to the girl less than 14 years of age who baked the best batch of biscuits at the store on a Bucks Steel Range. And for those young men seeking a higher education, tuition to the University of Georgia was free for residents of the state.

At Rose Lawn, one of the Jones' daughters, Laura Jones, was married to David Flournoy. She made a beautiful bride as she came down the grand staircase carrying an overflowing bouquet of giant tea roses from the garden.

Times have really changed.

Baby Blanche lived through WW I, WWII, the great Depression, the impact of electricity, the Industrial Revolution, the Technological Revolution, and thousands of other changes that occured to a nation of people over the span of a hundred years.

At some point, Baby Blanche's little girl grew up and the doll was not needed anymore, so she was retired to a giant lard can in the attic. Forgotten, she remained in the can until the little girl's daughter, Mrs. Margaretta Shaw, remembered her. In her haste to show the doll to her own grandchildren, Baby Blanche suffered a "terrible fall" in which her face cracked and broke into jagged pieces. Hoping that all was not lost, Mrs. Shaw brought Baby Blanche in her lard can with her clothes to Rose Lawn.

Jones descendant and Rose Lawn volunteer Susan Swanson immediately took Blanche to a Doll Hospital in Atlanta. There she was carefully restored by Suzanne Anderson, a doll restoration specialist. We are happy to report that Baby Blanche has returned to Rose Lawn and is sitting beside her lard bucket on one of the beds on the top floor.

Rose Lawn has been looking for a link to communicate with the children of Cartersville. It is our intention to use Baby Blanche to begin the process of linking to the schools and their programs on local history and community.

It is our hope that Baby Blanche through the creation of the new children's exhibit will "talk" to the children about the way their town has grown and changed in the last hundred years. She will tell them how the children of the early 1900s spent their days. Without television, games and imagination were all important. Children learned their lessons on behavior through role-playing-especially with their dolls. By understanding the children and dolls of yesterday, our children will better understand the world around them today and how it has evolved.

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The fifth card shows one of the dolls being given to a child at Christmas.

The sixth card shows the broken doll being taken to a "Doll Doctor" for repair.

Images ©2000
Denise Van Patten


This set of six trade cards (vintage business cards) depicts a doll story.  The first four cards show the process of porcelain dollmaking in a turn-of-the-century factory.

224 West Cherokee Avenue
Cartersville, GA 30120
Phone 770.387.5162  
Jane Drew, Director