Martha Chase Stockinette Doll

Name:  Martha Chase Stockinette Doll

Made by and When:  Martha Chase, circa 1910

Material:  Treated and painted stockinette

Marks: Unmarked

Height: 26 inches

Hair, Eyes, Ears, Mouth: Short curly black Astrakhan wig, painted brown eyes, applied ears, closed mouth with full lips

Clothes: As described in the Sotheby’s auction catalog, The Collection of Lenon Holder Hoyte, the Martha Chase doll wears, “Brightly printed red cotton long skirt and blouse, white neck scarf and apron, red bandana, underclothes, black socks, lacking shoes.” In the gallery photos, the doll is not wearing the red bandana.

From Sotheby’s 6644 auction catalog of “Aunt Len’s” dolls, December 16, 1994, is item 491. Described as “Martha Chase Black Painted Cloth Doll, American, late 19th century, stockinette face and body,” is a 26-inch doll formerly owned by Aunt Len.  This is the same doll in this installation.

Other: Jointed at the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, made circa 1910, this doll is from the collection of Lenon Holder Hoyte of Aunt Len’s Doll Museum. Attached to the dress is a tag authenticating prior ownership by Aunt Len’s Doll Museum and sold by Sotheby’s on December 16, 1994.

About Aunt Len: Born on Independence Day in 1905, Lenon Holder Hoyte, an educator and philanthropist, was the founder and curator of Aunt Len’s Doll and Toy Museum.  The museum was housed in the three-story Harlem, New York brownstone that she shared with her pharmacist husband, Lewis P. Hoyte.  The couple had no children, but Hoyte often referred to her dolls as her babies. Ms. Hoyte died on August 1, 1999. Learn more about Ms. Hoyte and view additional dolls from her museum at the link below the gallery.

About Martha Chase: Martha Chase began making dolls in 1899 for her children. She wanted dolls that children could manipulate through play. Very little is written about Chase’s early Black dolls like the one in this auction except they are described and have the characteristics of servants. Based on their attire which usually included a headscarf and apron, most doll historians aptly describe the early female Chase dolls as mammies. The earliest Black dolls’ facial features represent a person of African descent. These dolls did not share molds with their white counterparts. In later years, Black stockinette dolls by Martha Chase used the same mold as their White counterparts. Follow the link below the gallery to view the installation of a 1950s Black stockinette doll by Martha Chase.

Gallery (Photographs courtesy of Sharon Harbin)

More to Read

Lenon Holder Hoyte – Educator, Philantropist, Doll Museum Founder

Martha Chase circa 1950s stockinette doll


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Published by DeeBeeGee

Doll collector, historian, co-founder of the first e-zine devoted to collecting black dolls; author of black-doll reference books, doll blogs, and doll magazine articles.

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