Born on September 17, 1883 in Breslau, Katharina Simon had a childhood full of struggles but she had grown to love literature and the theatre. She took acting classes and had her first appearance in a theatre in Berlin at the age of 17. She was known under the pseudonym Hedda Somin and soon became financially capable of living on her own. She then met Max Kruse who was a famous sculptor and married him soon after. She became a full time mother in raising seven children.
She began to make dolls of her own for her children when she disapproved of the breakable porcelain dolls found in shops. The original doll that Kathe made for her daughter Mimerle was made with a towel body that was filled with sand and the doll head was a potato wrapped in cloth. The doll was made to be softer and comfortable for her children to easily love. During the family’s stay in Munich, she found a replica of a child’s head made by Frans Duquesnoy who was a Flemish Baroque sculptor. The sculpture was called Fiamingo and this was figure she patterned her doll heads after. In 1904, she eventually made dolls for an exposition named “Spielzeug aus eigener Hand” which translates to home-made toys in Berlin’s Tietz deparment store which is now also known as KaDeWe.
The hand-made dolls were a big hit as people loved the cloth texture. Kruse then entered into an agreement with Kammer and Reinhardt to manufacture the doll parts for them. The contract came up with the doll named Baby Bauz but it did not make much in the market. Dissatisfied by the work, she ended the contract with K & R after just a few months. However in 1911, she got two huge orders from the United States and soon enough she established a company in Bad Kosen and made the dolls on her own.
Kathe then placed advertisements and articles on newspapers and in magazines. She also sent postcards and published catalogues to introduce her doll series. The business grew and in 1913, Kathe joined the Gent World Fair and also participated in the Paris World Fair in 1937 where she was awarded with a gold medal for her doll making artistry. However, in 1942 Max Kruse died and then followed by another death in 1943 with her son’s death.
After Jochen, her other son Friedebald also passed away in 1944. Their passing brought so much grief to Kathe and it her doll production took a decline after World War II when the Soviet troops occupied Bad Kosen. In 1950, Kathe moved to Donauworth and continued their doll manufacturing business which was now run by her son Michael. In 1956, Kathe was honored with First Class Federal Cross of Merit Award and around this time she already handed the business over to her children. The Kathe Kruse Doll Company still exists until today.
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