1997 32¢ Izannah Walker
Classic American Dolls
Issue Date: July 28, 1997
City: Anaheim, CA
Printed By: Sterling Sommer for Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: 10.9 x 11.1
Possibly made as early as 1855, Izannah Walker’s cloth dolls are considered by many to be the first notable American dolls. Resembling the primitive folk art portraits of 19th-century children, the simple beauty of her dolls has endeared them to collectors, and has caused their value to rise dramatically.
Ms. Walker first registered a patent for her dolls in 1873. According to family tradition she struggled to perfect her work, wrestling with the problem of how to apply a resistant surface to the stockinet heads, arms, and legs that wouldn’t crack and peel. In relating the story, her grandniece tells, “With this problem on her mind, Aunt Izannah suddenly sat up in bed one night to hear a voice say, ‘use paste.’”
Her complicated process involved layering and pressing cloth treated with paste in a two-part mold. The two halves were then stuffed, sewed, and glued together around a central wooden dowel. Hands and feet, with individually sewn fingers and toes were added, and the completed doll was painted with oils.
Hand painted, each doll had its own unique character; however, their distinctive features gave them a strikingly similar look. A circa 1870s photo shows a young girl holding an Izannah Walker doll and a German bisque-head doll.