BAPS Cloth German Dolls
Where did the BAPS dolls come from?
Let’s go back to the 1940’s and meet Frau Edith von Arps. She was born and lived near Burgkunstadt in the northern part of Bavaria – not far from Thuringia. She founded the firm in 1946 and registered it under the name BAPS.
Frau von Arps suffered the deaths of her husband and 2 sons during WWII. In order to support herself, she returned to a hobby that she had done in her past – doll making. She was well traveled and educated – and a natural born businesswoman. With the influx of U.S. military personnel near Nuremberg where she lived, her customer base was easy. Who wouldn’t want a sweet doll souvenir to take home to kids, esp. of stories the children know?
Many people with BAPS today will tell of an older woman bringing the dolls on the Army base and selling them to Americans. The items were also sold in the local German shops and exported to the U.S. – in 1948, dolls were sold in Harvey Stores and several department stores in the US.
As the business grew, Frau von Arps hired village women to help with sewing and selling the dolls. These women peddled the dolls by going door to door.
Now – for the dolls themselves –
The size averages about 4-5”. Adult dolls are 5 ¼ inches to the scaled child 3 ½ inches. The dolls are made on a wire upper frame which is attached to standard purchased wire legs with metal feet. The framework is wrapped with a strip of a soft, fibrous paper material; legs and arms are then covered with felt. The head is the last thing attached after the facial painting is completed. Some exceptions exist that have arms that are thread wrapped rather than felt – like the English Grecon dolls.
Facial features are hand painted. Post war faces have more detail with faces being darker and eyes shadowed. The later dolls have faces with stenciled features rather than hand painted. Many of the animals have embroidered eyes or sequined eyes and the entire metal foot is covered with felt. The later witch has a much more detailed face than earlier one.
The cloth covered doll head was sewn with floss cotton hair. Fine stitches complete the seams, and then the dolls were then clothed with fanciful outfits. A great deal of craftsmanship was given to these dolls along with props in many cases. While some have a few moth holes or faded color, for the most part the dolls have remained in great condition considering their 50-60 year age.
Most unique to the dolls is the weighted metal feet. In most cases, the dolls can stand on their own without a doll stand. These metal feet are one way to identify the dolls, since there are no marks or tags, but some Grecon dolls did have metal feet too.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Click on photos to enlarge.