Saturday, December 2, 2017

Making Christmas Dolls in A French Factory

Doll making in a French factory, 1908.
       Does it seem to you that it would be a delightful business to make hundreds of thousands of dolls every year? H'm! Does this huge kettle of bad-smelling mush make you think of the dainty, smiling dolls in the toy-shop window? Dolly is made, though you would never guess it, of chopped up bits of old kid gloves and pieces of cardboard boiled to a pulp in a gum made from the horns of goats. And here is a man shoveling sawdust into a kettle half full of boiling water. Now he is turning the mass into a big mixing trough, adding one shovelful after another of the gluey mush. The machinery creaks and turns and cuts and slaps as this mixture is kneaded into a composition pulp. Now he is carrying some of it in a hod, for all the world like sticky mortar, to a weighing table! Sweep! it is spread out in an even thickness. Clip! down come the knives which part it into the right quantities, and it is swiftly pressed and molded to the shape of a body, an arm, or a leg. In one factory alone the parts of as many as forty thousand dolls are thus made in one day, and the ugly, greenish shapes set aside to harden. Another day they pass quickly under the brushes in the painters' hands after which they have the more familiar rosy pink color, and dolly can now be put together except for the head.
       Of these dolls the heads are to be of porcelain. Once for all, long ago, some artist made the model of which many duplicate molds stand ready. Into these molds liquid porcelain clay is poured; before it hardens the openings for the eyes are cut and tiny holes made by which it can be joined to a body. After the molds are opened, as the rows and rows of little heads stand in metal trays, a painter comes by, covers them with a glaze-wash, tints the cheeks and outlines the brows and lashes. Now into the oven goes the tray for hours of slow baking. But even with the head sewed on we have but a sad looking dolly, both blind and bald.
Crafting wigs for dolls, France, 1908.
       If all goes well, the eyes and the wig come next. The eyes are not made in this factory at all. They come from Germany, and it would probably give you a queer, scared feeling to see the making of them. Look into this long, dark room, and when your eyes are a little used to the strange shadowiness, you will see that down its sides there are rows of tables, before each of which sits a woman with a blue-flame gas lamp in front of her. At little distances are retorts of glowing molten glass, and each woman dips her short glass tube into the melted glass, and, keeping it soft by the help of that weird blue flame of the blowpipe jet, blows a little oblong globe which she colors white for the eyeball, and then upon it paints a pupil of blue, brown, or black, as the doll-makers may have ordered. The musical click which you hear all the time is the sharp stroke which breaks the finished and cooled eye from the glass rod, letting it drop into a box lined with cotton by her side. This boy coming out has been collecting them, and it makes us shiver to see those hundreds of eyes rolling uncannily at us from the bottom of his basket. Come away!
       A wig for an inexpensive doll is an easy matter; the chosen strands of hair are laid along a double thread, which passes below one strand and above the next. This thread makes the " part," and under it is stuck a bit of paste- board by which the wig is fastened on. A quick-fingered French woman can turn out over a hundred dozen such wigs in a day. And with the wig dolly is made at last.
       Her clothes, of course, are a separate matter, just as yours are ; there are dolls' shoemakers, and dolls' dress-makers, and the elaborate completeness of dolly's outfit depends only upon the price one is willing to pay. J. C. Dier, 1911.

 Doll factory in England, 1968.

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