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Introduction

Edith Hook.jpeg

Edith Hook with her doll collection and curio cabinet

The Edith Hook and Christine Hanson Kamp Seidman Doll Collection at the Browne Popular Culture Library (BPCL) has over 160 dolls. The collection was primarily amassed by Edith Hook during the mid 1900s, many of which came from her or family members’ travels. Edith herself would often take her nieces with her on trips by train, and each of these travels presented new opportunities for more dolls. Her niece, Chris Seidman, said that Edith was always looking for “interesting ones” to add to her collection. Edith’s sisters would also bring home dolls to her from their European trips. Many of the dolls that came from their travels are representative of the area they were visiting. Edith also had a friend who ran a doll hospital in Cleveland, and many of the bisque dolls in the collection came from there. Chris has also contributed to the collection. During her own European travels, she bought dolls that she thought were significant to the country. Many of these dolls were hand made by local people.

Doll collecting started to become popular during the latter part of the 19th century, especially amongst middle- and upper-class women and girls (Chittom). Usually, a doll collection starts because one already owns several dolls and has a particular type of doll that they are interested in collecting more of. As for Edith’s collection, she loved all types of dolls. Within it, there are mass-produced, brand name dolls like Cabbage Patch, Madame Alexander, and Kewpie (to name a few) but there are also the traditional bisque head dolls and numerous handmade folk dolls, among others. While many doll collectors limit themselves to the traditional antique dolls, locally-made dolls from around the world add an “interesting depth to a growing collection” (Chittom).

After Edith’s passing in 1980, Chris Seidman received part of her aunt’s extensive collection, as well as the oak curio cabinet that the dolls are currently housed in. In the 1950s, Edith received the cabinet from a family member, and the dolls have remained with it ever since. Chris also added to the collection before deciding to donate it to her alma mater. It now resides at the Browne Popular Culture Library, where it will serve as a representative of historic girl culture and as a counterbalance for the action figures within the library’s collection.