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Determining Age of Skookum Dolls
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oupled with the previously discussed topics to determine the age of Skookum dolls, (labels, masks & feet) the fabrics used in shirts and skirts, and the blanket wraps can also provide us with clues.

As the production years of Skookum Indian dolls progressed, materials used in their construction went through several transformations. The labels were altered every so often, the look of the feet evolved, as did the material used for the doll's masks. As new fibers were invented and style’s changed, these were reflected in the elements used to dress the dolls. Obviously the following won’t fit the description of every doll. This serves as a general guideline only. There are always exceptions with these individualistic, handmade dolls!

The first apple headed Skookum dolls of the mid teens were dressed in thin flannel plaid blankets. Blouses and shirts utilized cotton solids as well as prints dating from the turn of the century into the teens. Prints tended to be tiny geometric patterns or calico florals, most often in somewhat subdued tones. Solid red, gold, blue and other colors were used as well. Dyed cotton gauze was used for shirts and kerchiefs.

As the Skookum line of dolls began to include more styles and production was shifted to the Tammen Co. in Denver, Colorado, larger quantities of yard goods and blanketing were needed. To satisfy the need for the blanket wraps, it is speculated that factory seconds of Beacon and Esmond blankets were bought in quantity. Mary McAboy was aware that Indians on the reservations wore similarly patterned wool trade blankets so it would seem a natural choice.

In the late teens and early 20s, 100% cotton blankets with geometric Indian prints were used. The blankets had a thick flannel feel and the designs were well suited for the dolls. Blanket hems were raw edged, bound with cotton or blanket stitched. Later blankets had satin bindings as well. After the mid 20s the “ombre” or rainbow shading technique was invented by the makers of Beacon blankets and from then on we also see dolls with ombred geometric prints. The fabrics used in the shirts and skirts reflected the times as well. By the 30s prints became bolder and more vivid, even whimsical at times. Most often 100% cotton, some dresses and kerchiefs were of silk. Wool felt was used for the male's pants as well as for some of the larger female dolls fringed dresses and smaller doll's underskirts. The 30s saw little change until war time when materials were at a shortage. Feed sacks and large prints were employed, replacing the calicos and finer cotton prints. Blankets were still 100% cotton, some thinner than the loftier ones of years past.

By the mid 1940s, notable changes occurred in Skookum production. Aside from the recent introduction of plastic masks and paper tape covered feet, we see a change in the costume fabrics. In general colors become brighter, even pastel! Prints used in shirts, skirts, and blouses are bolder and larger. Polished cottons, cotton blends, and rayon silks are used. The felt pants of the period are usually a wool blend or brushed cotton. The blankets used to wrap the Skookum dolls are the new cotton/rayon blends. In the late 40s and 50s some of the blankets are entirely synthetic. The geometric patterns of these blankets are larger and the weave tends to be less dense. They can have a fuzzy appearance. The use of these textiles remains basically the same until production ceases on the dolls in the early 60s.

The photos below illustrate the general timeline and appearance of the blankets and fabrics. Hopefully this, and the two previous articles in the series, will be helpful for you to date your Skookum dolls. Good luck!

Applehead Skookum dolls with cotton flannel blankets and small subdued prints.

In the 1920s blankets were 100% cotton made by Beacon or Esmond. Cotton prints were calicos, prints, and solids.

The mid to late 1920s through the 1930s saw the use of colorful ombre effect blankets and whimsical colorful prints.

Cotton, and rayon/cotton blends were used in both fabrics and blankets of the Skookum doll's costumes after the development of synthetics.