Tintype: Girl with Izannah Walker Doll

My very first object for you is a 4.75" x 7" tintype with an extraordinarily rare image - a young girl posed with what must have been a treasured doll, an Izannah Walker American cloth doll, c 1870s.

The original label remains on the back: A E Alden, Photographer. Providence, RI, Springfield MA, Troy, NY & Saratoga Springs, NY.

Izannah Walker, 1873, Central Falls, RI, was one of the courageous and successful entrepreneurial women of the 19th century, who had an idea , brought it to fruition, and then applied for a US Patent to protect her fledgling enterprise. Her dolls are made with a molded head, fashioned of layers of cotton and paste, and then molded in dies. When dry, a layer of cotton batting was applied, and then a finish covering of stockinet keeps it all together. It is then needle sculpted and painted. Ref: The Collector's Encyclopedia of Dolls, by Dorothy S., Elizabeth A. and Evelyn J. Coleman; Crown Publishers Inc.; New York; 1968; pp.634-36.

The Walker dolls are the first truly American manufactured rag dolls, and are the most charismatic and sought after of the cloth doll genre. They fall into a crossover area of doll collecting, appealing to seekers of both manufactured and homemade dolls. They have a magical appeal and each is unique due to the one-of-a kind process of molding and painting designed by Ms. Walker.

Now, this young sitter with her doll, must be from RI, where the photographer had a studio, and where Walker dolls were made. She wears an iconic checked frock of the period, and the doll is in matching costume. The girl looks like a tough customer to me and so this doll must have been a beloved possession to be brought with her to be photographed.

I purchased this image in Vermont several years ago. It had been found by Michael Seward, who works hard to turn up the rare and unusual. It came with a frame that looks to be the correct period. It has hung in our Acworth home for all that time and given us many hours of happy companionship.