Discover Vintage America - MAY 2017
Fulper Pottery supplied bisque doll heads during WWI
Q: Hi Michelle. I know that you are the go-to person for appraisals when it comes to antique and vintage dolls. I purchased this sweet baby doll at a garage sale and the back of her neck is marked "Fulper." I know that Fulper made dinnerware and vases but have not heard about them making dolls. I only paid $5 for her, so even if she is a fantasy item or something that an individual crafted I'm not out a fortune. She has a bisque head, composition hands and a cloth body. Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
A: Thank you very much for your question. Yes, I do have a soft spot for antique and vintage dolls; I actually still have a few dolls from when I was younger.
Fulper Pottery is known for creating many different household items but few are familiar with the period in which they manufactured doll heads.
Fulper Pottery started as Hill Pottery, established by Samuel Hill in 1814 in Flemington, NJ. Upon his death in 1858, the pottery was put up for public auction and was purchased by Abram Fulper, becoming Fulper Pottery. Fulper produced a wide variety of earthenware items, stoneware and tile products along with the utilitarian wares, which had been produced by Hill Pottery.
Abram Fulper died in the 1880s and his sons took over operation of the company with no change to the product line. This did bring a change in the name to Fulper Bros. In 1899 the company was incorporated which brought about yet another name change, Fulper Pottery Co.
Times were changing and it was the perfect opportunity to add to the product line with an expansion of household utilitarian wares and the addition of "Fire-Proof Cookware." The most notable item was the "Germ Proof Filter," which was the forerunner of today's water cooler. The "Fulper Filter" was very popular for use in public places such as train stations, schools and offices and was exported to the West Indies and South America.
At the turn of the century, Fulper Pottery began manufacturing a line of casual art pottery. Master potter John Kunsman crafted a variety of vases
and crockery with single color glazes. Kunsman's work and the Fulper "Germ Proof Filter" crock
were exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 (St. Louis World's Fair) and won honorable mention for the design work.
Fulper's first successful art pottery line,
VaseKraft, was introduced in 1909 but by this
time there were several potteries in the area and competition was pretty stiff. In 1910, Martin Stangl became the ceramics engineer. Under Stangl's direction, Fulper became the first American
pottery company to introduce a line of dinnerware in glazed solid colors of striking quality. Stangl
was responsible for the development of many of
the art pottery forms and glazes for Fulper.
Most of Fulper's early work, up to and including the late teens display the superior quality glazes for which the company is famous. Fulper used approximately 100 glazes during its art pottery production days.
In 1929 Stangl acquired Fulper Pottery, but the amount and quality of the art pottery declined until 1935, when Stangl shifted to production of dinnerware exclusively
So where do the dolls fit in to all of this?
From 1918 until 1927 Fulper Pottery made all bisque dolls and bisque heads for the American doll industry. World War I was raging and dolls were not being imported from Germany, France or other European doll makers. Among the companies that used Fulper bisque products are Sears, Amberg, Colonial Toy, and Horsman.
Fulper produced bisque socket head or shoulder heads for child dolls 14" to 26" tall, some with human hair wigs, others with molded painted hair. The doll heads have sleep eyes made of metal and all are open mouth.
Fulper also made bent limb character baby dolls. Also, examples of all bisque Kewpie dolls and Peterkin dolls by Horsman have been found with Fulper markings and there are probably others out there.
Fulper ceased manufacture of bisque doll heads in 1922, but continued to sell their inventory until 1927. Fulper did make novelties and pincushion heads after 1922.
You stated that your Fulper bisque head doll has a cloth body with celluloid hands. From this we know that Fulper made the head but are not sure who made the body. If the mark on the back of the head has an "M" "S" these were made when Martin Stangl was with the company.
One would think that since these were made for such short period of time they would be valuable. I am sad to say that this is not the case. Even though the doll heads are beautiful and well-made, your doll would sell for around $50-$75. The all bisque Kewpie and Peterkin dolls sell for a bit more as do those with bodies not made of cloth.
Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.
Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to email@example.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michelleknowsantiques.com for a one-on-one appraisal.