Sunday, April 26, 2015

Terrific Tiny Tears

Tiny Tears Layette Set
Here's another doll I've had sitting around forever because I wasn't sure how to proceed with the restoration. This is American Character's Tiny Tears, a drink and wet and crying doll from the 1950s. This particular version of Tiny Tears is the most desirable and valuable, according to my research. She has a hard plastic head with a Caracul wig and rubber body. I know next to nothing about these dolls; all I can tell you here is what I found during my research on restoring this doll. I always see these listed as "the 11-inch doll" or "the 14 inch doll", but this doll is 12.5 inches tall, so I don't know!

The doll's eyes had fallen into her head.

When I got Tiny she appeared to have lost her eyes. Using a flashlight I found them down inside her head, but I couldn't figure out how to remove the head to get to them. I finally found a blog post that recommended heating the body with a hair dryer so it would be pliable enough to allow you to pull off the head, so that's what I did. Once the head was off I found a very elaborate system of tubes and weights. This doll is supposed to wet her diaper when you feed her. If you squeeze her stomach after feeding her she cries real tears from the holes beside her eyes. I got the eyes replaced and tubes connected (such a complicated process I posted a separate tutorial showing that), tested her sleep eyes and crying and wetting mechanisms to make sure they work, re-attached her head, and... her sleep eyes wouldn't close! I was so very frustrated! I could see the problem; the body has a separate piece that sits in between the head and body. There is a tube in this piece to connect the crying and wetting tubes, but there is another metal piece that seems completely unnecessary and seemed to be blocking the eye movement.

More internet research turned up a possible cause: "Rock-A-Bye" eyes! Evidently, this is a high-maintenance baby doll. You have to actually rock her to sleep to get her to close her eyes. I guess some truth in advertising where babies are concerned can't hurt. It might even lower the teen pregnancy rate! So anyway, the metal piece blocks the eyes from closing unless you rock the baby side to side and up and down as you would rock a real baby. As you do this the eyes gradually close. These eyes date this doll to 1959 or later, because that's when they debuted. Most dolls with the RAB eyes have rooted Saran hair, so this must be one of the very first with the special eyes. This one's eyes mostly work. Sometimes they snap shut like regular sleep eyes and other times they stay open so you have to turn her head to get them to close, but the majority of the time they close gradually as you move the doll in a rocking motion. Once I confirmed the Rock-A-Bye eyes work I touched up Tiny's cheek and lip paint and cleaned her body.

The doll after restoration

The doll after cleaning

Real rubber dolls don't exist anymore except as vintage pieces. They're a bit delicate and difficult to restore. Rubber rots easily and is especially sensitive to light exposure. It often darkens with age and can also crack. This body luckily has no cracks. To clean the rubber and keep it nice I first gently rubbed a Mr. Clean Eraser over it. Then I washed it with dish soap. After that I dried the body and then rubbed baby powder all over it. I rubbed the powder in with my fingers and tissued off any excess. This helps with the darkening and also keeps the rubber from becoming sticky. There are still a few spots I couldn't get totally clean, but this is a 1950s doll, after all, and she can be expected to show a little bit of age!

There are some spots I couldn't remove.

One of the special things about this doll is her Caracul or Karakul wig. Karakul is a type of wool from Karakul sheep raised in Asia and Africa. These wigs might actually be skins rather than wool, as the wig appears to have a natural skin. I hate to think of that, but we don't do stuff like that anymore, at least for toy manufacturing. These wigs are often in terrible shape, but this one is really nice and full, with little frizz and no missing hair. There are places where the curls lie in such a way that the skin wig cap shows, but it is colored to match the hair so it looks fine. It's quite unusual to see Tiny dolls with such a lovely cap of curls! Tiny is marked on the back of her head with the American Character logo.

The doll is marked.

Her wig is thick and lovely.

The trouble with crying and wetting doll is the water causes all sorts of trouble. It can rot the rubber bodies and rust the metal eye mechanisms. In this case the eye mechanism is rusty but still moves. The eyelashes on one eye were rotting and falling out from exposure to moisture, however. I gave Tiny a partial lash replacement. In the sequence below you can see her Rock-A-Bye eyes working.

Tiny Tears awake

Getting sleepy


Tiny Tears came to me in a large box of project dolls. She was nude and had only a glass baby doll bottle with her. A few months after she arrived I bought a vintage suitcase full of doll clothes. This had obviously been a little girl's sewing box back in the 1950s and 1960s and it was apparent her primary work was to replenish her Tiny Tears' wardrobe. The case contained several Tiny Tears original outfits, mended by her little mommy, and many more hand sewn pieces by Mommy herself. I think the little girl's Tiny Tears was a larger one; the dress and booties seem too big for this doll but they do stay one. The romper can be adjusted to fit with the tie. I have included in this set a handmade diaper or panties, which don't fit terribly well, flannel pajamas which may be handmade or possibly factory but hand-mended, a factory bunting, and a handmade blanket obviously sewn by the little girl.

Handmade diaper and blanket

The bottle came with the doll.

Tiny Tears was first produced by American Character and then was made by Ideal. I acquired the Ideal Tiny Tears dress of 1982 in a doll clothing lot and it's a perfect fit so I included it. I added a Madame Alexander bonnet from the 1960s to make a sweet outfit for Tiny.

The Ideal Tiny Tears dress of 1982 is included.

A Cissy doll I bought came stuffed into a too-small dress that became a perfect Christening gown for Tiny. I added a vintage organdy dotted Swiss bonnet from the original suitcase.

Tiny's Christening outfit

Tiny likes to sleep on the quilt Mommy made her in her vintage flannel sleeper. She always sleeps with her own baby doll, a Best kewpie from the 1950s.

I tied the original booties on Tiny's feet with new ribbons and replaced the ribbon on her bonnet. She wears the original Tiny Tears bloomers in this photo.

Original Tiny Tears booties and bloomers

The original Tiny Tears dress may have been meant for a larger version of the doll.

The original Tiny Tears logo romper seems to fit this doll pretty well, so maybe the little girl's doll was this size. She had replaced the buttons with mismatched pearl-finish ones, but a recent trip to a thrift store yielded a box of buttons with some that appear nearly identical to the ones that would have come on the romper. I used those and they're a perfect fit!

The Tiny Tears logo romper

Since it is imperative that the rubber body not be exposed to light and since this doll would have originally come with a suitcase layette, I found a vintage case for her. This is not a fitted case. It has a hanging bar for clothes, however, The metal sides are somewhat bent and there is wear to the paint. The middle buckle is missing, but the other two buckles keep the case closed.

Tiny Tears is just an adorable doll, and iconic for many Baby Boomers. My mom saw her before her restoration when she didn't have eyes and even then exclaimed, "Oh! This is how baby dolls looked when I was little!" You can find Tiny Tears and many other lovely dolls in my Atelier Mandaline store and in my catalogue, so please check.

The case has wear.

Tiny Tears has a layette similar to her original one.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.