Citizens Forum of the 1860’s 2017

The week end  of March 24-26th Samantha and I were up in Monroe, Michigan. We drove about 7 hours to get there. The hotel was comfortable and the conference venue was spacious. We had to be at the venue at Monroe Community College at 9 am on Friday morning to set up.


It only took an hour or so set up Samantha’s table. After wards the workshops started. The first workshop was to make a gathering apron or a knitting apron. Samantha learned how to make a gathering apron. Glenna Jo Christenson taught the workshop. She showed us many different types of aprons. I saw some very fancy ones I think Samantha needs to make me.


Afterwards, we manned the vendor table and met conference attendees. Friday night was very relaxed with a short time to change and freshen up; then onto the historic Sawyer house.

When we arrived, there was a brass band playing on the front porch.

After we listened for a bit, Samantha wanted to sample some of the delicious foods that were prepared.


We headed back to the hotel early in the evening due to still being exhausted from traveling the previous day. The next day we arrived bright and early at the college to man the table. At 1 pm that day Samantha spoke on dolls from 1850-1865. It was well received and she got many good questions at the end.

The conference was over at 7 pm for the day. That evening Samantha and I worked on needle work at the hotel room in our night clothes. It was very relaxing.

Sunday was the last day and it was a great ending to a great conference. It ran from 9 am to 1 pm. After the closing remarks were delivered and everything was packed up, we hit the road back to Gettysburg.

We made it back home the following day. I was sad to see the conference over but happy to know that it would be back next year! Samantha and I will return next year to be sure. Seeing the original clothing, jewelry, punched paper and shoes on display was one of the highlights for Samantha.


If you are considering attending this conference; don’t hesitate! The minute sign up opens up for next years, just sign up. You will not regret it!


The dates for next years conference are:

March 23-25th, 2018

The Great Boston Fire of 1872

I know, I know. This is a doll blog! But I promise you this relates to dolls or atleast one particular one. Last month  I was perusing eBay like I normally do( every waking moment….) and I saw a doll head that was advertised as “advertising doll head from Boston”. My interest was peaked. I watched it and sniped it at the last minute because I get cheap when it comes to unknown pieces. I waited for a a week for it to come in. Low and behold, I was out of town when it arrived! So I had to wait a few days longer to see this unknown treasure.

When I opened the box up and pulled the doll head out I was perplexed. All of the black paint on this large china head doll was painted on after firing. It was not a paint you would have used on a doll head. It was some common household paint. Next the thing that caught my eye was scorch marks in the inside and back of the shoulder plate.

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That’s not normal. I tend to state the obvious to myself when trying to figure things out. I also noticed how her lips were faded but not an uneven fade. You find an uneven fade in antique doll heads due to wear but this was not the case. This looked like to me, when you try and fire off painted from a porcelain piece in a kiln. It tends to come off evenly. I know personally that once red china paint gets onto the piece, it wont come off;even before firing residue can still hang on. So this was also odd to me.

There was painted words on the front of the chest plate, most of which were rubbed off with wear and tear. All I could make out was “Boston” and “10, 1872”. Why would writing be on this doll head? What made this date important?


So what does the lazy……I mean best doll researcher do? Google it! Seriously, you can get leads this way and it does help with a jumping off point. The only links that came up were about the great Boston fire of November 9-10 1872! Lets think about this for a minute……….if you are on my Facebook page you saw the images of the scorched doll heads from the Chicago fire. The same type of scorch marks were on this head.


Then it hit me. This doll head survived the Great Boston Fire of 1872! I kept looking over it hoping there was some other explanation. There had to be, artifacts like do not just pop up on eBay everyday. I walked around stunned for HOURS; just ask my boyfriend he had to deal with me like this. Don’t get me wrong, he was excited too but not as much as I was.

This fire destroyed 65 acres of downtown area, 776 buildings(including the financial district) and caused about $73.5 million in damage. Its interesting to note that only 13 people died in this disaster. That is hard to believe in my book.  It also makes me wonder what happened to the original owner of this doll. Did she survive? Did she perish? Did she survive and do the painting? I have so many questions! If only this artifact could talk! I want to take a trip to Boston at some point soon(soon being between now and 5 years from now) and get her verified as a surviving relic of the fire and see if I can dig up any information on her owner.


A birds eye view of Boston, showing the burned area.

Next to the Great Chicago fire of 1871, this disaster gets swept under the rug. It doesn’t have a great little made up tale of Mrs O Leary’s cow or some such nonsense. I think that’s why it is not really known. I had no idea until I started researching.


While researching, I found a Civil war link in this fire. The headquarters of the Boston branch of The United States Sanitary Commission was destroyed in the fire. They only rebuilt half of the building. So if you are ever in Boston, what you see was not what was originally there.

As excited as I was to discover the history behind this artifact; its still a sad event. In this fire hundreds of citizens were left homeless and businesses were destroyed. I like to think that lessons were learned and new rules put into effect. I know government doesn’t always work that way but hopefully out of the ashes came change.


How did this journey begin?

Recently, I had a friend ask me how I got started in doll making. I found it funny as I thought about how I would answer her that I had never been asked that before. Well, let me rephrase that; I have but not quite as in depth. I normally get asked who I bought Lydia Ann from or questions like how long I have had her. Those types of questions do get part of my story as there answer but, not the whole thing.

So here goes nothing!

This whole “doll thing” started 6 years ago in 2011. It was late January and I was at a living history for a local civil war site in northern Florida. A friend of mine had a doll and I spotted it in her display. As soon as I saw her doll I knew I needed one! I was 24 and of course at this age a doll is a need. Yep, it’s a need. So after getting the contact information of the doll artist, I contacted her. I got the pricing for Lydia Ann and had to figure out how to afford her. Ok let me explain something to my loyal readers…….My husband (at the time) and I were working minimum wage. We paid our bills and were not starving but this doll would be a luxury. Luckily tax refunds would come along a few months later! That was my treat to myself. I then sent off the money and waited two weeks.

Of course during those two weeks, time dragged on. It felt like a lifetime but she finally made it to my front door step!


I am going to apologize at this point, I am getting long winded. But stay with me the good stuff is coming.

I outfitted Lydia Ann from the skin out with scraps of fabric I had in my stash and my Mother in laws stash. She was my relaxation after work dealing with retail customer’s alllll dayyyyyyy longgggggg.



After about a year or so of dressing her, I started traveling with her. Then I started her Facebook page( to share her travels. Everybody loved Lydia Ann’s adventures and continue to do so.

Fast forward to 2015, I was traveling somewhere with my best friend. She showed me a magazine called “Dolls Beautiful”. It is put out by the Doll Artisans Guild( She saw they had a class for a doll she had admired and then I saw. I wanted her in my house! So we signed up and made arrangements to go to Atlanta, Ga to Sue’s Doll Studio.



After taking that class, I felt encouraged to try my hand at more dolls. I also had caught the doll making bug. Yes folks, that is a real affliction. Be careful! You too will catch it! I found out how to become a doll artist because I felt why not get the credentials if I’m going to do this “doll thing”! I had to take apprentice I,II, and III. Then on top of that I had to take a test……and pass! Phew! At this point I had to keep going; I HAD to be able to make as many dolls as I wanted. What I really wanted to make was parian and china head dolls from the 1850’s and 1860’s.



With each class, we made different dolls to learn new skills. If you ask Sue Mitchell, there were times I wanted to hurl my doll head at the wall. The two things that would get me so upset were “fancy” eyebrows (the kind with many, many tiny strokes) and eyelashes. I still don’t love either of them.



After taking all three classes and extra courses to make sure I was confident in my skill set; I graduated in late 2016.




Sometime in 2016 I went on a road trip to pick up my kiln and some doll parts. The trip took me all the way out to Ohio in pottery country! After months and months of working on my kiln (I swear I can be a professional kiln repair person now) all is up and running!



That’s all folks! That is my story, well the short version at least. I didn’t want to bore anyone being long winded. Drop me a line if you have any ideas or questions or concerns. Take care!