New World, America, California, 1920 to 1969. An intriguing set of 14 male and female Native American dolls, all standing and wrapped in polychrome blankets of geometric designs. All of these fascinating figurines feature round faces with slender eyes looking out to their right, slim eyebrows, flat noses, thin lips, and high cheekbones framed by long black hair and are dressed in linen and felt dresses, shirts, and pants of varying colors and patterns and tan moccasins. Many are additionally adorned with rosy cheeks, cloth or paper headbands, wooden and plastic beaded necklaces, and braided hair. A few exhibit additional ornaments, such as a feather, a bandana, a purse, or a baby. Although 6 include a Skookum marking on their foot, all are clearly influenced by the Skookum doll aesthetic. The composite medium of the dolls can help to date them; while the earlier dolls are mostly made of wood with dowel rod legs, bodies stuffed with twigs, leaves, straw, and grass, and feet wrapped in suede, leather, felt, or paper, the dolls made after 1948 are almost entirely plastic. Size of Largest: 5.25" L x 4.5" W x 15.5" H (13.3 cm x 11.4 cm x 39.4 cm)
Mary McAboy (1876 to 1961) started making Native American dolls wrapped in blankets with apple heads in 1913, following the tradition of her mother who frequently made apple head dolls to give to friends and sell at social events. Astounded by their popularity, she soon obtained a patent for their design and the name "Skookum", a slang term from the United States Pacific Northwest meaning excellent or mighty. In 1920, Mary joined forces with the H.H. Tammen Company and began mass production and nationwide distribution of her Skookum dolls, which gradually changed from apple head dolls to dolls completely made from plastic composite, and continued to oversee production until her death in 1961. An excellent representation of her work, these dolls are just a small example of her business empire.
Another example of a Skookum doll can be found at Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College under the accession number 987.35.26724.
Provenance: private Orange County, California, USA collection
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Some miniscule fraying and apertures of fabric and chipping to paint as commensurate with age. Some of the material on the shoes has started to peel, leg of one is detached, and head of another caved in. One doll without legs may not be a Skookum doll, but seems very much influenced by the Skookum aesthetic. Otherwise very nice with remarkable remaining pigment.