Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Arizona Doll and Toy Museum in Phoenix

I am back amidst the greenery (and cold) of Maine, and am working on my next normal review, but I want to quickly share one other neat spot I found in Phoenix.  Within walking distance from our hotel was the beautiful Heritage & Science Park, home to both the Arizona Science Center and the Arizona Doll and Toy Museum.  The park offered an excellent arrangement for my family--my son and husband made a beeline for the science center while I stopped in to check out the doll museum before joining them.  Everyone was happy--and both museums are excellent.

The Arizona Doll and Toy Museum is situated in an old house right next to the science center.  The house, called the Stevens-Haustgen house, was built 1901 and is a perfect place to display a big collection of lovely old dolls.  It costs $5 to tour the museum's four rooms, which seemed like a good deal to me.  All in all, I think I had about a half an hour to spend looking around, and this wasn't quite enough.  It would have been ideal to have twice that much time so that I could read all of the identification cards and maybe learn a thing or two about my very favorite dolls.  Because I was a bit rushed (and also distractedly excited by rooms filled with dolls...), I forgot to take a picture of the outside of the museum.  So, I'll just go ahead and start with a picture of my favorite display:

Antique bisque doll school scene at the Arizona Doll and Toy Museum
 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Showing you that picture first is actually backwards, since the school scene is in the last room of the museum--like the grand finale.  So, let me back up and take you through the rooms in the correct order.

Despite many signs asking that no photographs be taken, I did get permission from the proprietor to snap a few flash-less pictures as I admired the dolls.

The first room has four glass cabinets, two diorama doll houses and a small display sitting behind rope barriers: 


This dress shop diorama was my favorite thing in the room--especially after visiting The Doll House and Toy Store in Scottsdale.  It is incredibly detailed from top to bottom.  Look at the siding on the house and the detail in the windows:

Someone is peeking out of that upstairs window!
The ribbon and trim section of the store made me feel like I was in a Jane Austen novel, whether that time period is appropriate or not:

I shan't even browse.  I can't be trusted.  I have very poor taste in ribbons!

I like the bisque and composition doll on the far right in this cabinet:

Tete Jumeau doll, mold #11
She reminds me of the Armand Marseille dolls I was admiring in my antique doll post.  I like that her eyebrows are crooked.  I have seen dolls like this on eBay and always assumed that they had been repainted.  The fact that the dolls were made initially with imperfect eyebrows makes them even more appealing to me.

This gorgeous porcelain toddler is sitting out in her carriage behind the rope barriers:

The second room is dominated by a large, fully-furnished Victorian dollhouse:

Peering at all of the details in this display probably could have taken thirty minutes on its own.

The little dolls are fabulous, intricately dressed porcelain miniatures:

The dollhouse room also has a few glass cabinets displaying a wide variety of dolls.  

I really enjoyed seeing some of the character dolls like this Googly by Armand Marseille:

And this felt Italian boy:

And this surprise-eyed Lenci doll (also from Italy):

The surprised doll was on a lower shelf and so her picture is really, really dark.  I tried to lighten it a bit, but she's still hard to see:

I think she's seen a ghost.
I was fascinated by the felt Lenci dolls and spent a bit of time looking at them online.  I adore the moody-faced Lencis like this one.  Amazing.

I also noticed the familiar face of a bisque Bye-Lo baby.  Grace Putnam's popular head mold is considered to be one of the first realistic baby doll faces ever made:

This room also has two box dioramas set up inside a glass cabinet.  One is a living room scene:

The other is a kitchen:

Here's the other cabinet in the second room--notice the smiling baby up top next to the stuffed Pluto dog--I'll get back to her later.  I especially like the tall doll to the right of this cabinet:

The large doll is a 45" Heinrich Handwerck bisque-head doll with a composition body:

In between the larger rooms in the museum, there are little displays tucked into corners and up against walls:

I think maybe there is only one display cabinet in the third room.  I did a bad job of taking organized pictures, and my memory is terrible.  The third room has a lot of commercial dolls from the mid to late 1900s.  I think maybe there is a smaller cabinet in this room with some non-doll toys--it didn't get a lot of my attention, apparently.

I like this Betsy Wetsy doll playset by the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company:

Betsy has a hard rubber body that is in very good condition.  I have seen a lot of antique rubber-bodied dolls with serious discoloration problems, but this baby's limbs are in great shape:

There is a nice selection of Shirley Temple dolls:

Here's a gorgeous Madame Hendren composition toddler girl.  This doll has a phonograph inside that makes her sing and talk.  She has a horn in the front of her body (under the dress, I suppose?) that allows the sound to come out, and a crank in her side to turn the records.  She originally came with six interchangeable sound cylinders.  I would love to own a doll like this--or at least get to play with her for a few hours:

I was really fascinated by this doll and did some more reading about her.  If you want to hear her talk, I found this video on YouTube.  There's also a great description of the doll with more pictures in this old auction.

I like this composition toddler, too.  She was made by the Century Doll Company in the 1930's.

This striking Heloise resin doll (1996) caught my eye:

Her name is Marie-Jeanne and I think she has a wonderful face with very real-looking, dreamy eyes.  It's definitely worth checking out some other Heloise dolls.  The Dollery has a nice selection.

Some cuties tucked into a corner:

And some familiar faces at the bottom of one cabinet:

Barbie, Kathe Kruse (?) boy and Sasha.
Here's a sampling of some of the many other dolls in this cabinet:

I think this toy cart display was my favorite item in the room, though:

That brings us to the last room and back to this amazing schoolroom display:

The school takes up most of the last room, but there is also a cabinet in one corner and a few babies sitting out in an old buggy:

My favorite doll in the cabinet is this realistic, kind-looking wax Gepetto--surrounded by his toys:

Made by Lewis Sorensen.
One of the babies sitting out in the buggy made me laugh out loud.  Look at his squished-up, moody little face:

Angry elf.
I don't know anything about this doll, and he is very cheaply made, but the $5 price tag was irresistible and I had to bring him home with me:

He has a porcelain head and porcelain hands with a lightly stuffed cloth body.  His hair and facial features are all painted--and they're not painted very well.  He almost seems like a bad attempt at a Bye-Lo knock-off to me:

I think maybe this doll is supposed to be a girl, but even so, I think s/he is too young for nail polish:

Especially orange nail polish.
Look at his funny little profile:

I think what makes this baby's face so giggle-worthy is that it is very asymmetric.  Here is it again so you can see what I mean:

I wanted to explore the asymmetry a bit because I am fascinated by how real people's faces can be so mismatched.  I've heard that you can have multiple personalities reflected in the two sides of your face--like a good side and an evil side, or maybe a silly side and a serious side.  Anyway, I tried photographing this doll with Photo Booth to see what kind of multiple personalities he has.  Photo Booth has a mirror effect so that you can reflect one side of a face to make a full head.  This is really fun to try on yourself, BTW.

 Here he is with just the left side of his face:

The dark side.
The right side of his face is cuter, but I had to hang him upside down to capture this half:

The Superman side?
Photo Booth is fun. :D

The "bulge" effect--now that's asymmetry!
Ok--back to the school display.  This huge diorama is wonderful.  I love the diversity of bisque dolls.  It's clear that an incredible amount of time and care was put into setting up their surroundings.  With the current popularity of American Girls and other 18" play dolls, this display is even more compelling.  It is the turn of the century equivalent of this scene (from AG Doll Play).

The teacher is an 1880's German porcelain doll:

Here are the rules she has to follow:

My favorites?

Men teachers may take one evening from each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.


Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.


The dolls are arranged so beautifully.  They have a lively range of expressions on their faces, and they all seem to be acting appropriately for the setting.  This dark-haired beauty in front wonders why a visitor has come into her classroom:

Many of the girls look very studious and attentive (notice the blond girl in the back raising her hand!):

The older girl in the aisle looks like she might be a teacher's helper?

These two, though, are my favorites:  

They are sitting at the very back of the classroom, which tells you something already.  I picture them as mismatched best friends--one tall and excitable, the other short and opinionated.  The taller girl looks completely shocked and flustered and the smaller brunette looks resignedly ticked off. 

Wha-- wait, recess?  Now?
But, but, but I haven't finished this chapter yet!
Oh, for crying out loud.  It's 115 degrees outside and we're made of wood particles.
Do you want us to, like, burst into flames?
Finally, let me go back to that second room and show you the baby on top of the cabinet again:

From a distance, I assumed she was Horsman's Baby Dimples:

As you know, I have a fondness for Dimples, and lately that fondness has turned into something of an obsession.  I am trying to collect all of the different sizes of Dimples doll.  Don't ask why.

I don't think the doll in the museum is Baby Dimples, though.  She's not labeled, although the proprietor hinted that she was Dimples.  I'd need to see the back of her neck to be absolutely sure.  
One clue that this isn't Dimples is that she has eyebrows.  I am not aware of any Dimples dolls that have factory-painted eyebrows.

Also, her face doesn't look quite right to me.  Her face and chunky hands look more like Effanbee's style to me.

Effanbee's baby "Bubbles?"
My guess is that she is about 26" tall, and I happen to have a 26" Dimples for comparison:

Horsman Dimples

I just got this doll, and she arrived with some pretty bad facial crazing.  I didn't mind this damage because I have been eager to try out a cleaning trick I learned that is supposed to reduce the appearance of crazing lines.

I mixed some acrylic paints to match the approximate skin tone of the doll.  Then, I rubbed the paint into the the doll's face, working in very small patches and rubbing until the dirt was gone and the composition began to shine.  Then, I switched to a clean rag and polished the wet paint completely off the surface.  The trick is, a little bit of paint stays behind in the small cracks, lightening their color and making them less noticeable.  I think it works beautifully, and hope it doesn't damage the doll.

In this picture, half of the face has been cleaned and half has not.  See if you can tell which is which!

Horsman Dimples

Here she is all cleaned and polished and back in her original outfit:

Horsman Dimples

Horsman Dimples

While I'm on the subject, I also found the smallest size Dimples doll, a cute little 14" version.  I purchased this doll on Etsy and she was in pretty bad shape.  Her face has a lot of crazing and spotting. Here she is before (left) and after (right) her cleaning:

Horsman Dimples

This doll's worst problem was that she had undisclosed repairs on her legs--really, really badly done undisclosed repairs.  I should have sent the doll right back to the seller, but she's a hard doll to find.

I tried to strip away all of the horrible paint that had been added to the legs.  It is not easy to strip paint off of these limbs without ruining the original finish, and it took me all day to get one leg clean.  There were some bad cracks and ugly patching underneath all of that paint:

In this picture, the baby's right leg is still painted with the ugly orange-ish "repair" paint and the left leg is the original nice peachy-pink paint.  Notice that the repair efforts didn't stop the cracking at all.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn't get the jaundiced paint off of the second leg, so I ended up removing all of the paint from both legs, stripping them down to the brown sawdust composition.  The benefit of this drastic move is that I can show you what bare composition looks like:

It looks like particle board.
I repainted the legs with acrylic paint.  This could be stripped or sanded off pretty easily.  It's not a great fix, but the legs look much better than they did when I first saw the doll.

Anyway, here's this cutie re-united with an original 14" Dimples outfit:

Horsman Dimples

Horsman Dimples

Here are both dolls together so you can see their relative sizes. I'll do another quick post when I have assembled my entire Baby Dimples army.

Horsman Dimples

So...that's my roundabout tour of the Arizona Doll and Toy Museum in Phoenix.  It's a fun place to visit and it showcases a wide variety lovingly displayed older dolls.  As an added bonus, there are a ton of interesting dolls and toys in the gift shop at very reasonable prices.  I bought two antique doll books and was tempted by about ten of the smaller dolls that were for sale.  The owner is friendly and extremely knowledgeable about antique dolls.  We had a nice chat and she even brought out an old composition Madame Alexander doll for me to hold and examine.  What a treat!  If I am ever back in Phoenix, I will definitely try to pay this unique museum another (longer) visit.

I came away from this trip with a broader interest in antique dolls.  Now I'm am thinking about starting a search for an 18" Armand Marseille (or similar) girl so I can compare her to the popular contemporary play dolls like American Girl, Carpatina and EuroGirl.  Maybe one like this studious redhead:

I also have a renewed appreciation for miniatures and dollhouses.  If my dream dollhouse project ends up being too much to handle, maybe something simpler like a version of this wonderful toy cart would be a good substitute:

Last, my fascination with Horsman's Baby Dimples is stronger than ever.  Despite all of the gorgeous antique dolls I saw at the museum, I still think this 1928 wonder baby is the best of the best--no matter what size she is:

Horsman Dimples


  1. Hello from Spain: beautiful pictures of Doll Museum. I love watching the dolls of other times. Babies are precious. Girls in school is a pretty picture. Keep in touch

  2. Wow your repairs on Dimples are amazing! I'm shocked at the improvement! Is it hard to mix the paints to match the skin tone?

    1. Thank you so much! It actually wasn't that hard to match the paint. I found a "bleached titanium" color at the craft store that was very close, and then just added some brown and pink (more pink when I did the rosy cheeks). For the crazing repair, the match does not have to be perfect...a little lighter is actually good because a darker color will just look cracked again.

      With the legs, I added a paint thinner and then worked with lots and lots of thin layers so I could see how the match was going and correct as I went. The legs look better in the pictures than they do in real life, but I am happy enough with the fix. ;)

      Thanks again!!

  3. I can't believe how beautiful both your dolls turned out. You did a fabulous job on them!

    It was fun to see parts of the doll museum, I am glad they let you take some pictures. I like the one with the copper haired Sasha doll, I had a beautiful blond Sasha and a Gregory growing up. My mom now holds them hostage!

    I also want to say, it is really nice having such a great site to visit with interesting and detailed information on dolls and toys. Thank you for your dedication, I know it takes a lot of work to keep posting new and exciting information.

    1. Thank you so much! I have a lot of fun fixing up the older babies, as long as I don't have to glue down big cracks like I did that first time!

      I love that Sasha, too! I had four or five Sashas (and Gregory!) when I was young, but I always wanted that particular strawberry blonde girl, so it was neat to see her in person! Does your mom display your Sasha dolls, or have them in storage? I recently freed mine from storage, and it is so nice to have them around again.

      Thank you for your comment about the blog, too. You are so incredibly kind to say that and I really appreciate it! :)

  4. Your Dimples both turned out beautifully. As a side note, I hope you left feedback about the undisclosed legs--that's truly awful.

    Seeing the doll museum through your pictures was very interesting. I'm not as big a fan of baby dolls--I prefer fashion dolls--but I find your new baby doll very appealing. It was so funny seeing his different "sides" through Photo Booth!

    1. Hi Holly, thank you so much!

      You like my squishy-faced baby?? That's awesome! :D I thought I was a little crazy to pick him up, but the price was right and there's something about him that resonates with me. I'm glad you like him, too!

      I didn't leave feedback for Dimples. I probably should have, but I hate to hurt someone's business when they might have just missed the repairs in a busy week or something. If I had wanted to return the doll and the seller had refused, that would be one thing but since I wanted to keep her, and am happy with her now, I think it's all good. :)

  5. Those repair jobs you did on the crazed dolls is AMAZING. I'm just stunned at how well they turned out--I don't see a streak or a paint glob anywhere!

    1. Thank you so much, Tina!! I think the legs look better in the picture than they do in real life, and I always feel a little bad changing an old doll, but it is SO fun to work with these babies and learn about them along the way! :)

  6. Hi Emily,

    what a sweet little museum and a lovely post! So many treasures caught my eye that I wouldn't even know where to begin. The classroom was amazing. You could spend a long time looking at all the different characters and thinking up stories behind them.

    However the part of your review that strikes a chord with me is the theme of obsession. I loved your admission that you are obsessed with Dimples right now and just LOOK at what you have learned to do since your last review on her. Your restorations are amazing. I know where you are coming from because I am currently obsessing about Blythe and Pullip. I spend all of my time thinking about what doll I would get next, cute poses to put them in, buying clothes, making clothes, improving my photography skills, re-rooting, eye gaze correcting, face carving, swapping heads, hunting for info on the internet etc, etc, etc.... It is quite exhausting and overwhelming actually (and my housework has been totally neglected). The worst part is that none of my friends or family really "get it" and many would think that I was completely nuts if they knew. It can be quite isolating and sometimes I wonder if I am indeed quite mad. The joy of the Arizona Doll Museum, your blog, and doll related forums is that enables people to connect with others who share the same obsessions ... and helps me to feel less like a fruitbat :D

    1. Oh, well, I think maybe we're just fruitbats together! :D I can totally relate. I think doll collecting is just a long string of immersive, passionate obsessions! And, since we never know what the next obsession will be or where it will take us, it's like an amazing adventure, right?

      I am fascinated by the fact that you've attempted Blythe and Pullip face carving. Wow! Whenever I scan eBay for custom Blythe dolls, the ones that make me stop in my tracks are always the ones with carved mouths--those fragile little pouts and even some of the smiles. That would be an incredible skill to have, I think. Maybe some day you'll share some of your work?? :)

    2. Ha ha ha... No I have not attempted face carving. I'd be too scared that I would ruin the doll. I have no time or energy left to do any of it. I just obsess about it all.

  7. Amazing pictures Emily! What a doll journey!
    Some of the dolls were a bit creepy to me (like the doll at the left of the surprise-eyed Lenci doll) But I find it fascinating that some of those old dolls are still here to be admired.
    My favorites are the dollhouses, I especially love the ribbon and trim store section!
    The 5 dollar doll was a nice purchase, he doesn't look that cheap to me besides the paint en weird nailpolish. And I think you restored the legs of Baby Dimples beautifully!
    The school scene made me think of little house on the prairie (my dad loves that show so I saw every episode, I'm not like your everyday Dutch fifteen year old girl xD) The little conversation between the girls was hilarious!
    Thanks for this post Emily, I'm glad your time in Arizona was filled with doll happiness.

    1. Thank you so much! Arizona did have a lot of doll happiness.

      The schoolroom reminds me of Little House on the Prairie, too! :D So, all of the Dutch teenagers aren't watching that show these days?? ;) I used to sneak downstairs and watch it when I was a kid. I guess it's ok if my mom knows that now--she probably knew it then, too!

      What impressed me is the mix of dolls that were on display--some definitely not to my taste, but some of them real treasures. There was something to surprise and delight any doll collector, I would think.

  8. The dolls school is amazing, and your repair turned out beautifully!

    1. Thank you so much, N! Isn't that school house fantastic? I think I could have stayed there for quite a while just admiring.

  9. Your repairs are fantastic! The whole article was an interesting read, especially the "teachers' rules part cracked me up. I wish I could go to a toy museum too. I've seen old toys in some museums in France and I could hardly take my eyes off them.

    1. Thank you, BlackKitty! There is something mesmerizing about old toys, isn't there? I find that I get caught up in visions of what life must have been like for the kids who played with those toys--doll houses in particular, because they give you a little window into what the houses and daily life were like.

      I love those teachers rules, too. I was giggling, but how amazing that people had to live by those rules! :-O

  10. Also notice the "DO NOT TAKE PICTURES" sign?
    I was there once, and I almost got caught taking pictures.

    1. Oh, did you go to the same museum, Heather? Isn't it fun? I did notice the signs, and I was bummed out at first thinking that I wouldn't be able to blog, but there was a very nice woman there who said that I could take pictures if I turned off my flash. I was the only one in the museum when I went, which was good because I would have felt like a weirdo taking millions of pictures while other people were trying to admire the dolls! :P

  11. I find vintage dolls(espically the dimples babies)especially adorable.It is kinda sad now that most dolls are factory made and it is quite hard to find a decent doll (in the uk anyway)at a reasonable price because in the uk for certain dols E.G monster high it is double the price here compared to the america's

  12. I came across this post on Pinterest and I have to say I loved it! Since I live in Phoenix, I'll be visiting this museum myself! I sell vintage dolls in my Etsy store occasionally. I'll be back to further my doll/toy education!

  13. My grandma used to run a doll and toy museum and doll hospital, and make her own molds and wrote books about the subject and this review reminded me of that.

  14. What a generous blog post to share your visit so thoroughly . I inherited two big Kestner dolls, really lovely, that I need to sell. I am not sure how to go about finding a home for them. I suppose I can try Ebay. One is very much like the standing doll on the right in a cabinet with three dolls that you mentioned liking. I have lots f pictures of them if yo are interested. I stumbled in here from Pinterest and your blog looks very fun indeed. I hope you winter isn't too too cold!