China Head Doll
The Museum receives more offers of dolls than anything else. With more than 300 dolls in the permanent collection, we think long and hard when we receive another offer. After all, we probably already have a similar one—but not always.
Last fall, we were offered a doll that had been in Kathleen Haines Dailey’s family for five generations. With such a long family history, we were intrigued. When we saw the doll, we realized she was unlike any we already had.
This doll was the childhood delight of Alvira Haynes. “Vira” was born in Kalamazoo in 1865, the daughter of Alonzo and Martha Haynes. Vira always told the story that the doll’s head came from France in a wooden box packed with straw. It’s most likely that her parents bought it at a local fancy goods store.
The delicate bisque head has a unique feature – a scarf molded into the hair and then hand
painted with a luster finish. Someone, perhaps Vira’s mother or grandmother, crafted the doll’s cloth body, stuffing it with sawdust and sewing handmade clothing for her.
The doll was a family treasure for nearly 150 years. She is now a community treasure, preserved together with her local family history in the Museum for generations to come.