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Monday, May 25, 2015

Mehitabel Hodges ~ 18th. Century Wooden Doll

In the late 1990's I spotted a magazine in an antiques shop with this doll on the cover and my heart was captured. The article was by the late John Darcy Noble about Mehitabel Hodges known as the "Salem Doll".

In the words of Mr. Noble:

"Her story is perhaps a saga, which reads like a detective yarn from the shattering of her reputation and her shameful retirement to the appearance of her champions on both sides of the Atlantic. Let us look first at her story as it appeared in print in the 1940's. A Captain Gamaliel Hodges of Salem, Massachusetts, set sail for China in 1715. In France he bought a doll for his daughter, Mehitabel, elaborately dressed in the fashion of the day. It was said that Captain Hodges did not return to Salem until 1724.

The doll, we were told, was treasured by subsequent generations of Hodges girls, who named it Mehitabel after its first owner. All this information is from family oral history, which seems to have been written down for the first time in the 1890's, when the doll was exhibited for charity."

And so the story goes.  To finish reading it, please find the book Selected Writings of John Darcy Noble. Favorite Articles From Dolls Magazine: 1982-1995

But from my heart it is key that this doll was the first glass-eyed wooden I ever laid eyes on and it was she who inspired me to sculpt my doll Tess. Of course, my sculpting is primitive and immature to say the least; nonetheless, Tess was born and became one of my signature creations. I made a plaster mold of my first one and from there pour liquid maché into the mold to make more of the same doll. I never knew how I would ever make a wooden doll. 

I finally learned how woodens were made and I left it at that, for my passion was never that strong to reproduce an exact replica.  The artist in me is happy to do my own interpretation.

I still love Mehitabel Hodges. 

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