Measuring 9 inches high, these delightful examples of Folk Art styling, are two of a series of Black cloth character dolls made in Alabama in the 1930’s by unknown craftsmen/women.
It has been noted that their creation was encouraged through President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Depression era program, the Work Projects Administration (WPA), in existence from 1935-1943. The WPA was designed to provide jobs across the country during the Great Depression. While most jobs were in construction and infrastructure, the most well-known project arm of the WPA, known as Federal Project Number One, employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. The five projects assigned to this consortium were: the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), the Historical Records Survey (HRS), the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), the Federal Music Project (FMP), and the Federal Art Project (FAP). The creation of these dolls fell under the WPA Federal Art Project, with the goal of representing the various aspects of the culture, work and lives of the Southern black community of this time period.
The doll clad in all black depicts the VERY rarely-found, black country preacher out for an afternoon stroll with his wooden walking stick in one hand and the Holy Bible clutched in the other. The preacher wears a machine-stitched suit thoughtfully detailed with fine, white shirt cuffs poking out from beneath his jacket and the white Reverend's collar at his neck. His left shoe reveals a hole with a sock-covered toe poking through! The preacher's stove-pipe-style hat is placed snugly on his head covering most of his gray hair although his full gray facial beard features prominently. His embroidered facial features, characteristic of these WPA dolls, are further accented with "steel-rimmed" style eye glasses. The 1.5 square inch bible actually has real pages! Also characteristic of this type of doll is a small square of asphalt shingle glued to the feet to serve as a stand. The doll's body is well-stuffed with cotton batting and he stands freely.
The gray-hair and bearded, chicken-toting black country gent doll is also attired in machine-stitched clothing and additionally shares a cotton-bating stuffed body, embroidered facial features, and an asphalt shingle tile stand. He wears cotton britches detailed with double knee patches and suspenders along with a blue and cream striped cotton shirt and a red and white polka dot kerchief around his neck. His hat is constructed of black-colored felt. This country gent holds a finely crafted and detailed brown chicken under his right arm, while his left hand clutches a wooden walking stick.
Two very special dolls that represent a snapshot of history, capturing the lives of poor Southern black folk of the Depression era.
The dolls are priced at $295.00 each.