Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Skookum Dolls Of Mary McAboy

These dolls were manufactured from 1914 to 1962 and were designed by Mary McAboy of Montana.  These dolls were modeled after the Chinook Indians’ dolls.  Skookum means excellent and it is derived from the Chinook or Siwash language.  The original Skookum dolls were made of dried up apple heads and were on stick figures.  These were used by a medicine man during a healing ritual.  This is where Mary took the inspiration for these dolls and created her dolls with Native American features.  She then received a patent for the name Skookum in 1919.  Later on the doll heads were replaced with composition or plastic ones in the 1940’s.  The hair for the dolls was made of horsehair.
The dolls’ costumes depict the native outfit of the Indian tribes.  They come in its customary Indian blankets worn above pants and skirts.  The earliest batch of dolls wore leather moccasins which were later replaced with felt or strong paper material.  The Skookum dolls measured 2 inches to as tall as 36 inches.  Established in the 1920, the Arrow Novelty Co. of New York was popularly known for its production of these Skookum Indian tourist dolls.   A mark that signifies that the dolls were made by Arrow Novelty is an oval paper tag with the markings: “Trademark Registered – Patented, Skookum (Bully Good) Indian U.S.A.  Aside from these Skookum dolls, Arrow Novelty was also known for its cloth, hard plastic, composition, and vinyl dolls.  They manufactured and distributed the Skookum in the east coast.

But it was also said that starting around May of 1916, the Skookum dolls were manufactured by George Borgfeldt and Co.   However, the Borgfeldt Co. was a huge importer of toys and dolls and basically they could just be distributing these dolls.  Nonetheless, they had a glass Skookum candy container as a novelty item.  There were also reports that these dolls were originally manufactured and distributed by Louis Amberg and also that the dolls were given as a premium gift item by the apple growers of Skookum Packers Association in the Washington State.  

However, these entities were just mentioned in some doll collection articles due to its use of the Skookum word but they were not directly associated to the manufacture of these dolls at all.  Yet, the H.H. (Harry Heye) Tammen Company or also known as the H.H. Tammen Curio Co. of Colorado manufactured Skookum dolls for the west coast under their own label.  Today, a vintage Skookum family group of dolls can fetch around $ 6,000.  The individual dolls can also be found priced from $500 to $1,000.  

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