These paper dolls–men, women and children– with extensive wardrobes of over eighty pieces, were found packed in three thread boxes. Their original owner had carefully packed them away and they remained undisturbed until the estate was dispersed. One box was labeled Loraine Robertson’s family. Most of the paper dolls had their name and age written in pencil on the back. Jack Colbern from Washington, Arthur Basset, Robert and Edward LeBaron, Wallace Terecia, Mrs. Rose Slesinger, Mary, John and William Neill (children of Alexander Neil III and Mary Simms Nelson Neill), are some of the personages represented in the collection. The
Neills also had a son, Alexander Neill IV (1868-1903), who served on the original board of directors of the Washington County Maryland Historical Society. Alexander lived in the Miller House, the headquarters of the Historical Society.
One dress was cut from paper with a Jonathan Street business address printed on the back. Among the various papers used in construction of the costumes is wall paper. Definitely clever, the maker also used the backs of ABC writing lesson papers. She cut gowns from paper and then stitched and glued fabrics to the paper dress shape.
A Hagerstown dress maker, or one of her patrons, probably Mrs. Alexander Neill, subscribed to Harpers Bazaar. Thus the dressmaker had access to the designs of the Parisian House of Worth. As a dressmaker to wealthy clients, she would have had access to a tremendous collection of beautiful scraps. Her selection of fabrics and lace would have been unlimited and of the best quality. You can see from these tiny costumes that they are constructed from bits of expensive textiles.
- Maker: Probably Mrs. Alexander Neill, wife of Hagerstown attorney Alexander Neill III, or her dressmaker.
- Origin: Hagerstown, Maryland.
- Circa: 1880 – 1899.
- Material: Twenty seven paper dolls and costumes of various fabrics, lace and paper.
- Size: Vary from 1 1/8 inches to 3 inches H.
- Provenance: Purchased from an estate in Hagerstown, Washington County, Maryland.