Sunday, August 20, 2017

Back To School Betty

My recent doll restorations have involved a number of composition dolls from the 1930s. As I mentioned in my McGuffey Ana post, I had forgotten all about a box of small "Little Betty" or "Wendy Ann" dolls with clothing. McGuffey Ana was a quick and easy restoration and I listed her as a trunk set with the original clothing in the lot. The other doll in the box was quite a bit more difficult. I think she is probably the reason I put the lot away and forgot them; I was nervous about whether I could even repair this doll.

Betty Before

Ana and Betty

Betty during restoration
As you can see, Betty was in far worse condition of the two dolls. McGuffey Ana's wig was still in its original style, so it was easy to identify her and match her to the correct clothing. Betty's face was almost entirely missing. One eye was chipped away, as was her nose. The other eye had deep lifting. I had to rebuild her face as best I could with epoxy. I used acrylic varnish to seal and smooth down the lifted areas. Then I re-painted the face and sealed it with gloss varnish. I also repaired all-over crazing to her composition body and head, re-strung her, and styled Betty's mohair wig.

Betty After Restoration

Before and After

I just guessed at Betty's hairstyle. I can see she is either Tiny Betty or Little Betty and not Wendy Ann because her back is not marked Wendy Ann. Tiny Betty is usually a 6-7 inch doll with painted shoes, but sometimes this doll is also called Tiny Betty. My Smith reference books show a doll who appears to wear the same dress called "Tiny Betty Schoolgirl" of 1937. I decided the schoolgirl dress probably came on this doll. Betty's wig looked like she originally wore braids as it is stitched up the back. Her hair definitely isn't the short cut shown in the book. I have seen larger McGuffey Ana dolls from this period wearing dresses made from the same calico fabric as this dress, but the McGuffey Ana style is different. I decided on a braided crown hairstyle for Betty. I wore my hair like this to school a great deal as a little girl and it helps hide the fact that Betty's wig had quite a bit of hair loss.

The mark

Reference photo from the Smith book

Besides the calico dress Betty had a pair of handmade tap pants in her box, but unfortunately these are too tight in the waist for her. I got some more modern (but still vintage) Madame Alexander bloomers, socks, and shoes from my stash for her. The calico dress lost its tag, but you can see from the square silver snaps and the tiny rickrack trim it is certainly an Alexander piece. This construction is typical of the Alexander clothing.

Madame Alexander clothes

The Alexander snaps

The doll is about 10 inches long.
Although Little Betty is referred to as an 8 or 9 inch doll in reference books she actually measures about 10 inches. This face came on a smaller size doll as well, usually called "Tiny Betty" (but not always; it's very confusing!) and that one has painted shoes and looks a lot like the Nancy Ann Storybook dolls.

I am proud of my restoration of Betty's face, but there's no doubt the repairs are still visible. I just wasn't able to get the face completely smooth again. It certainly isn't terribly obvious when the doll is displayed on  a shelf or in a case, but since it is there this is a great opportunity to get a highly-collectible doll at a lower price point than you might expect.

The repainted face from various angles
I think of Betty as a custom doll or art doll. She's an expression of my interpretation of the Betty character. Betty, just like the later plastic Alexander Wendy-Kins toddler dolls, has a pouty face and tilted head. Ever since Madame Lenci introduced her "grumpy" toddler dolls, doll makers across the world began sculpting their toddlers with a bit of attitude. You can see most doll artists were also mothers! My Betty is all ready to go back to school. She's wearing a lovely new dress, her hair is beautifully coiffed, but she's not too sure if she's happy about the situation. I can remember the nervousness of confronting a new classroom and new teacher and sometimes even a whole new school all too well! You can find Little Betty and many other lovely dolls in my shops and you can connect to all those from

Betty is ready for school.

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