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The Childhod Dolls and Toys of Luisa Hepper Kathriner

Beautifully preserved childhood dolls and toys from the early-to-mid 1930s


Bisque and composition dolls, all original, circa lste 1920s-1930s

Bisque and composition dolls, all original, circa late 1920s-1930s

Photo (c) Denise Van Patten; From the childhood collection of Luisa Hepper Kathrina
I look at many doll collections, both for appraisal and for buying and selling dolls. Generally, the collections that I look at are accumulated collections that are put together by adults. I also get a few dolls and toys that are passed down through the generations and kept in a family until the family decides to part with them. What I don't see very often is a very large original owner childhood collection of dolls and toys.

Dolls and Toys From The Depression Era

The dolls and toys of Luisa Hepper Kathe\riner are exactly that--all of her childhood dolls and toys kept together with care, beautifully preserved. Her childood posessions are a window into the world of dolls and toys that would be owned by an upper-middle class family during The Great Depression. The vast majority of the dolls and toys are from the late 1920s into the mid 1930s.

How Ms. Kathriner Came To Own So Many Toys and Dolls

Ms. Kathriner was born in 1925 in San Francisco, California. She was born to German immigrant parents. Her mother was so poor growing up that there was no money for dolls or toys or anything frivolous; in fact, she could only afford one pair of shoes a year, so she would have a pair of shoes in the winter, and when they wore out, she would go barefoot in the summer. Ms. Kathriner's father did well for the family in the meat industry. Since Ms. Kathriner was an only child, her mother lavished her with the type of playthings that were unavailable to her as a child. The dolls that were purchased were not the most expensive dolls available, but they were good quality dolls made in Germany, the United States, and Japan. There were a few later pieces in the collection, mostly plastic items later added to the dollhouse (from companies such as Tynie Toy), but the vast majority of the dolls and toys were from the early to mid-1930s.

Dolls in Original Clothing, Toys in Original Boxes, Even a Dollhouse!

Seeing all the dolls and toys together is quite a treat! There are Patsy and Patsyettes from Effanbee, bisque dolls from Germany, a great variety of composition dolls, both baby and child dolls, lots of doll clothing, toys and games in their original boxes, and a large dollhouse, completely furnished down to a small Strombecker radio in the parlour. The dollhouse was homemade, but done very beautifully with lovely details and some built-in furniture. Included with the dollhouse were some celluloid and bisque dollhouse dolls. There are children-size and doll-size tea sets, paper dolls, crafting sets, tiny inexpensive penny-painted bisque dolls, and lots of celluloid dolls including some Carnival Kewpies that Ms. Kathriner and her mom liked to sew for. Not everything has been preserved in perfect condition--for instance, many of the celluloid dolls have indents or worse crushing damage. The dollhouse has had many of the flooring papers lifted or destroyed. Some of the composition dolls were degraded, with crazing and cracking. But, given the amount of items, the condition of most of the items is remarkably good.

How The Childhood Toys and Dolls Stayed Together

Ms. Kathriner's favorite doll was a Patsyette by Effanbee, which often traveled with her. She has a lovely trousseau of many outfits, some store bought, and many made by Ms. Kathriner and her mother. Her husband told me that she often fondly talked about this doll.

Ms, Kathriner passed away in 2011. She, along with her husband Stepen Robert Kathriner, were long-time customers of my family's store, Katherine's Cottage. They used to purchase old-fashioned Christmas ornaments from me, and it is through my store I got to know them. I was very privileged to visit their home once which they had amazingly decorated for Christmas--every room had several trees, beautifully arranged by theme. The home had been on a Christmas tour.

Ms. Kathriner Kept Many Items; They Can Now Be Shared With a Wide Audience

Some people might consider Ms. Kathriner a hoarder--she kept everything, including newspapers, the ornaments from her family's Christmas tree, and, as you can see, all of her childhood posessions. However, unlike the hoarders you see on the dramatic Hoarders shows on cable television, Ms. Kathriner's items were kept in storage and well-cared for, and her home was quite beautiful and pleasant. The line between collecting and hoarding is quite thin sometimes; but I don't think collecting becomes hoarding until the items kept controls your life, and this was clearly not the situation with Ms. Kathriner, who shared her wonderful collections with many others.[p] [p] I have been given access to this wonderful collection by Stephen Kathriner, Louisa's husband. I will be posting a series of articles and photos from the collection in the next few weeks.

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