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Dolls Depict Cultures Across The World

Posted 10/19/2017

THE Sedgwick Historical Society houses a collection of WPA dolls made in the 1930s and 40s representing costumed figures from around the world.THE Sedgwick Historical Society houses a collection of WPA dolls made in the 1930s and 40s representing costumed figures from around the world.By Pilar Martin

SEDGWICK—During the era of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Works Projects Administration or WPA was formed to help provide work for all kinds of people throughout out the United States.

Most people identify the WPA as mainly constructing bridges and buildings. Roosevelt was a big supporter of arts and education, too.

WPA dolls were commissioned throughout the country in the late 1930s and early 1940s, some even in Kansas. The dolls were made of plaster and cotton, representing cultural figures from all over the world. The dolls were meant to provide a visual representation of people from around the world for education.

Sedgwick School District has a number of the WPA dolls, but when the dolls were acquired is a mystery. Board Clerk Deniece Richardson remembers seeing the dolls at school as a second-grader back in 1960s. The dolls were housed at the grade school and then the high school up until about 10-15 years ago. The collection was then loaned to the Sedgwick Historical Society and remains in their care today.

The WPA doll collection consists of 48 dolls, or 24 pairs. The dolls are 10-12 inches tall and each pair has a man and a woman. Much detail was used in painting the features of the dolls, with nationalities taken into account. The clothing or costume on each figure reflects the national costume of its country.

On display are dolls representing Austria, Old England, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Scotland, Romania, India, England, Norway, France, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Wales, Greece, Russia, Hungary, Spain, Holland, Denmark and Yugoslavia.