Specializing in Vintage and Antique Dolls antiqueblackdollS.com
By Penny Hadfield
The fabulous Loveleigh Novelty dolls were made in Grantville, GA by Itura Rosalein Colley Leigh, better known as Miss Love (hence Love-Leigh). She started making dolls in 1924 and made them until 1954-56...the last ones were not painted by her, and the difference is noticeable.
The heads are English walnuts with great hand painted faces. The bodies have wire armatures wrapped with cloth and/or crepe paper. The earliest dolls can be identified by the dark red paint around the eyes...this was dropped in later dolls. Their legs and feet are always the same...flat wire that has been covered with crepe paper and painted. Hands are black felt with separate cut fingers. Fabrics and trims were gathered by friends and neighbors...sometimes just little snippets. Petticoats and pantaloons on the ladies are always the same...off-white muslin with plain wide hems...no trims.
These character dolls depicted black life as she saw it in her town, presenting a dignified portrait of black people, not the usual caricatures. The first doll introduced to the public was "Old Black Joe”, a cotton picker. He was followed by "Aunt Lucy" and then came "Mammy's Angel Child"...she was also known as "Topsy." Many other dolls followed including, the Preacher and his Wife, a young woman with an aspirin tin suitcase called Traveling Annie, a coach driver with a whip, a fishing boy, Banjo Players and the Little Watermelon Boy...one of the rarest is “Scarlet’s Mammy” with her red taffeta petticoat showing. They are all wonderful!
Her dolls were sold all over the world in the 1930’s and the demand for them convinced Leigh to request a patent for her designs. She used odds and ends from her home in making the dolls...nothing was wasted! At least one white doll has been reported, and I have an Indian doll with a “snark” bird under his arm in my collection. “Snarks” are her whimsical animals made of pinecones, corn cobs, nut shells and other natural bits, put together with pipe cleaners...she was a clever lady! In 1928 she registered a pinecone turkey with the U.S. Patent Office. Her turkeys graced the White House during the terms of Coolidge, Hoover, and F.D. Roosevelt...pine cones came from FDR’s Warm Springs estate.
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This site is dedicated to the preservation of Black doll history.
We are focused on antique and vintage dolls that represent people of color throughout the world. Beverly@antiqueblackdolls.com