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 female doll offered is clad in a red and white checkered, machine-stitched dress topped over with a cream-colored linen apron which evidences some age-related, light soiling. Her apron pocket displays a red and white polka-dotted hankie with a bright, multi-colored head wrap protectively covering her graying hair from dust and grime while she completes household chores. Her outfit is fully completed with a cream-colored linen chemise and pantaloons and black leather shoes. Even though she is working at chores, brass-toned double hoop earrings beautifully grace her hand-stitched facial features. (All of the WPA black dolls produced for this project share identical hand-stitched facial features.) She holds her wicker-straw broom in her right hand but appears to have misplaced her tin pail for hauling swept up debris, which should be resting on her left arm.
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 rests sturdily on its stand, allowing the doll to freely stand upright. In light of the missing debris pail, she is priced at $245 vs $295 for her male, chicken-toting companion.
The gray-hair and bearded, chicken-toting black country gent doll is also attired in machine-stitched clothing and additionally shares a cotton-batting stuffed body, embroidered facial features, black leather shoes, and an asphalt shingle tile stand. He wears blue cotton britches with red suspenders along with a blue and cream striped cotton shirt and a red kerchief around his neck. His hat is constructed of black-colored felt. This country gent holds a very finely-crafted and detailed brown chicken under his right arm, while his left hand clutches a wooden walking stick. Note the lustrous chicken feathers protruding under his arm when he is viewed from the back.
Two very special dolls that represent a snapshot of history, capturing the lives of poor southern black folk of the Depression era.
As previously described, the female doll is priced at priced at $245.00 and her male companion at $295.00.
Please note: the male fisherman appearing in the photographs has been sold.