Paper Dolls: Chronology

Figure 1.--This modern paper doll set also had a Little Lord Fauntleroy character. The costume illustrated is a bit more elaborate than the actual Fauntleroy suits most boys wore, but some boys did actually elaborate suits like this.

Paper dolls originated in the early 19th century as relatively inexpensive playthings for children, and remained popular for the next 150 years. We have not yet found any 19th century examples. We have found many 20th century examples. Color lithography was well developed by the late 19th century to permit high-quality color paper dolls. We note magazines in the early 20th century adding paper doll pages which were popular with girls. We see them in both women's magazines and children's magazines. They became regular features in several important mass-circulation magazines. Subsequently children could buy booklets of beautifully printed paper doll sets on thicker paper than possible in magazines.

The 19th Century

The first sets of paper dolls were expensive hand-colored engravings. They were not cheap, however, as through much of the 19th century they had to be hand colored. Presumably they first appeared in Europe, but we do not yet have any historical detils. This changed in the late 19th centiry with the development of high-quality lithography. We have not yet found 19th century examples.

The 20th Century

Advances in printing technology in the late-19th sand early 20th century made possible delightful full-color lithographs. As they were printed in large numbers they did provide a very simple and inexpensive plaything for little girls. We notice magazines like Ladies Home Journal and Pictorial Review including paper doll cutouts as an attraction for children, presumably the girls. This meant both women's magazines and children's magazines. We are not sure precisely when magazines first began doing this or which magazine was the first. The first we note are American magazines. After World War II (1945) beautiful paperback books appeared with paper dolls. Many girls, now grown up, remember these books from their childhood. The books were not only beaufifully printed, but the main figures were done in heavy stock that made the dolls easier to play with. Several important magazines cntinued to run the by now well known features. Paper dolls continue to be popular with girls in the modern era.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main paper doll page]
[Return to Main toy page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: 10:29 PM 1/17/2009
Last updated: 10:29 PM 1/17/2009