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The Special and Rare Dolls of

Martha Chase T

by Bernice Millman

o recount a history of Martha Jencks Chase’s career would be redundant. This illustrious doll maker has been celebrated in many excellent published books and magazine articles. Her factory in Rhode Island turned out hundreds upon hundreds of cookie cutter like dolls. The charm and workmanship of these dolls is not to be discounted, however, examples of these are easily found today. Throughout the years of production many special dolls were created at her factory. These offerings are outstanding for their rarity, uniqueness and appeal.


A difficult example to locate is the size referred to as 00. This child measures a mere 8” in height. Lore regarding the creation of this doll tells us that Martha Chase was active in community service and gave herself freely to helping others. At one juncture of her life she volunteered to teach sewing classes to young girls at the nearby Church Hill School. She gave instructions to her pupils for creating this wee doll as a classroom project. This doll is a perfect miniature duplication of Martha’s larger dolls. A sateen covered body with stitched shoulders, hips, elbow and knee joints, painted arms and legs and even separately applied ears and thumbs are features difficult to imagine in a doll so tiny. After the dolls were sewn by the students, they were sent to the Chase factory for painting and finishing. A lovely and generous gesture on the part of Mrs. Chase was the return of each doll to its small makers. To quote Marjorie Bradshaw in her book The Doll House, “I met a woman, now 90 years old, who was one of her (Martha Chase’s) pupils. She was delighted to see my doll because hers had disappeared many years ago.”



Chase made several dolls based on American, literary, and historical figures. Her representation of George Washington created in 1921 (and possibly earlier) was the most impressive and I think the most expensive doll that Chase made for mass distribution. The cost was the whopping sum of $25.00. George was only made in one size, 24”. This doll is a true portrait of The Father of Our Country. His face bears a stern expression but behind those blue eyes and slightly smiling lips, there is serenity in his gaze. White hair in the usual heavily painted impasto style is very bouffant and features side-burns ending in a queue (or pigtail). His sateen and muslin body has fully jointed and painted limbs with elbow and knee areas stitched across for flexibility. His large hands are beautifully molded. A paper label firmly attached to his back identifies him as a Chase. This oneof-a-kind example wears clothing different from the often found blue and gold costume of other issues. Each impeccable item of clothing is made of ecru cotton or woolen fabric. From his black felt tri-cornered hat to his shirt with its lace jabot and cuffs to the woolen vest with matching knee length trousers, brass buttoned jacket and his high-heeled slippers, George is elegantly dressed in authentic colonial attire. His clothing is believed to be the only outfit made in these colors. Martha Chase made this doll as a gift to her grandson, Julian C. Chase Jr. According to the provenance that accompanies the doll he never left the Chase family and was passed down for decades from one generation to the next.

Below: Rarely seen is this diminutive 8 inch child by Martha Chase. All the details of the larger dolls in a small package. Left: A 24 inch George Wasington comes from the Chase family and is the only known example in this costume.

Profile for Antique Doll Collector Magazine

September 2010  

Special Chase Dolls • All Bisques • Meet the Bumsteads • Dolls’ Houses from the Old Salem Toy Museum • UFDC Salesroom • Antique Blue Ribbon...

September 2010  

Special Chase Dolls • All Bisques • Meet the Bumsteads • Dolls’ Houses from the Old Salem Toy Museum • UFDC Salesroom • Antique Blue Ribbon...