Mourning dolls also known as grave dolls, death dolls or effigy dolls. It is stated such dolls were first introduced in the Victorian Era. Its believed such dolls became a way for parents to create an effigy of a deceased child for remembrance and was used as a coping magnetism for the grieving parents.
Many believe when a child died, it was traditional for families who could afford such things to have a life-sized doll of the child made for the funeral. The doll would often be dressed in the deceased infant or child’s own clothing, and most of the deceased child’s own hair would be used to make the doll even more realistic. These wax dolls usually shown the deceased lying in a coffin-like setting with their eyes closed, to mimic a peaceful sleep. The backsides of the heads were made flat so that the doll would lay nicely when laid out to rest. The effigy doll would be put on display at the wake, and would then be left at the grave site. But it is known, from the effigy dolls which still exist today, that in some cases these wax effigy dolls were kept. Wax effigies of infants would be placed in a crib, their clothes would be changed, and otherwise treated like a real baby. The bodies of these wax dolls were cloth, weighted with sand to give them a more realistic feel. Sometimes the effigy itself would be framed. For older children, just the head and shoulders were used for the wax effigy, with flat backsides so that they could be placed in a picture frame.
Séance dolls was also believed to be used in victorian times. During the victorian times infant mortality rates was very high, so many grieving families would go to their local spiritualist to try to contact their passed children.
Spiritualist used dolls for the spirit of the child to use as a vessel to move and communicate through. It was believed that as a child becomes attached to a toy in life it can equally become as attached in death.
In 1882 Joseph Maskelyne & Son, a Midlands toy manufacturer produced the first doll designed for séance use. Maskelyne, a ceramics expert who mastered his trade at the Royal Crown Derby factory as a youngster later managed his own business making fine porcelain dolls and miniatures for doll’s houses. Maskelyne was also a well known spiritualist in the area and regularly attended as well as hosted séances.
Unlike conventional hollow ceramic dolls the séances doll would be a solid cast to prevent easy breakage from over zealous spirits. It would also be blessed by the Spiritualist church and the clay would be mixed with salt for purification and to prevent evil entities from interacting with the doll.
Between 1882 and 1915 Maskelyne & Son produced only forty two of these melancholic looking dolls. Fifteen remained in England while the remainder made their way to the US. A shipment of three dolls was lost in 1912 when RMS Titanic sank on her maiden voyage.
Did Mourning dolls exist?
Some doll collectors believe not even though they do know effigy dolls was around during the victorian times, they feel strongly that even effigy dolls wouldn’t have been placed with a dead child, its believed they was nothing more than toys.
Well last year I purchased a doll, advertised as a mourning doll from a antique seller. She is indeed a 18th century doll and she is most certainly dressed in victorian mourning clothes. It was also common during the victorian era to purchase dolls for children to practice mourning, was these dolls then used for real mourning purposes? that is simply not known.
I think mine personally looks like the one displayed here in a victorian mourning picture, sat on the chair, dressed in the dark dress, what do you think