The last time Naomi came to visit me she brought some of her recent paper doll purchases. We’re trying to keep them all in one place so she wanted me to put them with the ones that are already here. We haven’t done a paper doll post in quite some time but Naomi has bought quite a few reproduction paper doll books, mostly movie stars because she loves old movies but also a few vintage sets. I’ve only acquired one but it is rather special. More about that in a minute.
We spent the afternoon looking at the sets she’d brought and some of the other ones and we could not help noticing how many paper dolls were called Mary, Mary Anne, Mary Sue, Mary Jo, etc, etc. Of course, there are also a lot of Betty’s, Judy’s and Jean’s amongst the vintage dolls but Mary seems to crop up the most often. The Four Mary’s was the title of my favourite series in our old Bunty comics but Naomi said she thought there might be a million Mary’s in the paper doll world. Anyway, I decided that as we were planning some paper doll posts the first series of them would be called The Four Mary’s and would highlight some of the different Mary’s we have in our collection.
Mary and her Mummy
If you have read some of our previous posts you may remember that as children Naomi and I both had a set of paper dolls called Mary and her Mummy. Mum bought these for us in England sometime around 1964-5 with the original idea that she would keep them for us to play with on the ship going to Australia. This might have worked if she hadn’t actually told us about the dolls. I can’t remember if we were with her when she got them but I certainly remember seeing them. Mum put them on top of the wardrobe but it was some time before we got word that we had a passage on a ship and to two little girls, it seemed like we’d have to wait for ages to play with our new paper dolls. Eventually, we wore mum down I think and she let us have them.
It’s a lot harder to get vintage British paper dolls than American ones, we haven’t discovered anyone making reproductions of them and the originals don’t seem to come up for sale often. Our searches never turned up any reference to Mary and her Mummy.
Then one day, I received an email from a man in England. I’ll call him Al because that is his name. Al was clearing out his parents home and had found not one but two uncut copies of Mary and her Mummy. His online search to find out if they were worth anything lead him here to our blog which he said was the only place that he had ever found that mentioned them. After a couple of emails to and fro, Al very generously offered to give me one of the sets because he said he liked the idea that they would go somewhere where they would be loved. I still have no idea whether they are worth a lot. I hope that Al was able to sell his other set for a good price. I sent him the cost of postage to Australia so he wouldn’t be out of pocket. They duly arrived still in their original bag so I was able to find out that they were made by Tower Press, a company that also made jigsaw puzzles and children’s card games like Donkey, Old Maid and Happy Families. I didn’t want to even take the dolls out of their bag until Naomi came over and as much as I would love to cut them out I probably won’t.
I did want to photograph them properly though so I very carefully opened the bag. Here they are.
Here are the clothes.
These are quite large dolls printed on heavy card. Mummy is about twelve inches (30cms) tall and Mary about eight inches (20cms). As you can see there are not a lot of outfits but the graphics are very nice. I like the little illustrations of Mary and her Mummy doing fun activities together in their matching outfits. Mary does get one extra piece of clothing. The little short sleeved stripey jumper. I’m not really sure what she is supposed to wear it with though. It doesn’t go with anything she has. I rather think that the artist just wanted to fill some white space.
Considering that I had not seen these dolls for probably nearly 50 years they look exactly as I remember them and so do the clothes. The only thing I did not remember is the package they came in, probably because I was more than anxious for them to be taken out of it. I really feel like I want to dress them but perhaps I can scan and print a set of clothes to do that with so as not to spoil the originals. However, don’t be surprised later if you hear I caved in and cut them out.
I suspect that these were not expensive paper dolls. The packaging looks cheap. In fact, when I had a closer look on the packet I could see 1/11 faintly pencilled where the price should be. Less than two shillings. Of course in the sixties that bought more than it would today but it was cheap enough that mum could afford it out of her housekeeping money. Maybe they came from the local newsagents in Romford or from Woolworths or Marks and Spencer or a market stall.