Artifact of the Week — October 20, 2022

Posted by on October 26, 2022

Apple head dolls may have originated from Native American people. The practice of making dolls and other toys from utilitarian objects carried over to colonial Americans, who created dolls from clothespins, rags, corn husks, and any other materials that could imaginatively transform into a doll.

You can create an apple head doll! Peel an apple, then carve away facial features. Remember the apple will shrink as the water evaporates, so exaggerate the features. By the way, in the past the apples were often pinched while they dried to create facial features. Pierce the apple with a wire and hang to dry for a month. Leaving the apple as is will create a darker face while submerging the apple in lemon juice after it is peeled will keep the apple a lighter color for a short period of time. Much like tanning any material, though, the apple will eventually darken. The apples eventually shrink to approximately 1/3 their original size and appear as old, wrinkled faces.

Apple head dolls
Apple head dolls

Our two dolls come as a pair: an old woman and her elderly husband. The woman is dressed in pantaloons, underskirt, yellow print dress, and apron. She is holding a bowl of peas in the process of being shelled. Her good-looking husband dons a straw hat, long sleeved collared shirt, and blue denim striped overalls. His legs are crossed at the knee as if he is sitting in contemplation, watching his wife shell her peas.

While the dolls were used as toys, they were more often displayed as folk art. Would your children play with a doll that looked like a wrinkled old lady with a pinched face?

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