Mary Polhemus

As a child in 1945, Mary Polhemus went on a family vacation with her parents to The Wisconsin Dells. As a momento of the trip she bought the first of what would later become a much-loved Skookum collection.

By 1974, married and living in Chicago, Mary’s love of antiques, especially Victoriana, Indian beadwork, and Fred Harvey items, led her to many antique shows. With her husband Marlan’s interest in Civil War artifacts, the couple began to attend shows devoted to that collecting field in particular. It was there that Mary’s interest in Skookum dolls was rekindled. Chicago was also home to many large shows of Indian items and over time the Skookum collection began to grow.

In 1995 Mary and Marlan retired to the beautiful landscape of the Southwest. With more leisure time there was greater opportunity to travel, go on antiqueing trips and attend shows. Mary was able to find more dolls than ever. Her collection now numbers about 100 Skookums and includes everything from mailers, a fine pair of early appleheads, a lovely pueblo style with papoose, to a splendid pair of three foot display dolls.

Smiling, Marlan encouraged Mary to recount the time she bought her first left glancing doll. Excitedly bringing her treasure home to show him, he declared it must be a fake as they had never seen another. She insisted it was a rarity and as information made itself available, she was proven correct.

Mary’s enthusiasm and love of Skookum dolls is very contagious. The pleasure in sharing information and her collection has inspired a few of her friends to start Skookum collections of their own.

Always on the lookout for interesting dolls, Mary will continue to add to her tribe that began with a single doll so many years ago.

Top : Mary Polhemus with her first skookum, a souvenir of the Wisconsin Dells.
Bottom : Early appleheads and sitter with M.F. Woods pair in background.

(If you would like to submit a photo and description of a favorite Skookum find for possible publication, write to

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