The Original Doll Baby

Name:  The Original Doll Baby (Kit)

Made by and When:  Martha Nelson Thomas, 1984

Material:  Vinyl head, brown stuffed cloth body with a stitched navel

Marks: COPR ©1984 M N THOMAS

Height: 16 inches

Hair, Eyes, Mouth: Short black yarn hair, brown painted eyes, smiling closed mouth with dimples in both cheeks

Clothes: Redressed in a separately-sold authentic Cabbage Patch Kids (CPK) fashion, CPK suspender pants with an attached red-trimmed yellow short-sleeved shirt, and red knit socks. The white CPK shoes were added by the curator.

Other: In 1971, as an art student, Martha Nelson Thomas began making soft-sculptured one-of-a-kind dolls named Doll Babies or Doll Baby. Nelson sold the dolls at craft fairs around the Louisville, KY area. She met Xavier Roberts at one of the craft fairs in 1976. He purchased several dolls from Martha and sold them in Georgia. Roberts began making a line of similar dolls that same year fashioned after Martha’s Doll Babies that he named The Little People.  In 1979, Thomas filed a suit against Roberts which was settled out of court in 1984.

Beginning in 1984, Martha Nelson Thomas sold The Original Doll Baby kits through Fibre Craft. These kits included a vinyl head and a body to stuff that required minimal sewing. The doll in this installation was made from one of Nelson’s Original Doll Baby kits.  

Born Martha Marie Nelson on November 29, 1950, Martha died on May 26, 2013. The video below the gallery offers additional information about Thomas, her original soft-sculptured dolls, and her lawsuit against Xavier Roberts.




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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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