Bye-Lo dolls were baby dolls in the early 1920s with life-like heads and were very popular with the young girls of that time. The first Bye-Lo doll (see picture) was designed by Grace Storey Putnam who desired to create a doll which was as life-like as possible. In 1920 Putnam visited the Salvation Army day nursery in Los Angeles where she studied a 3-day old sleeping girl. Using clay she quickly worked at the baby's side to sculpt its likeness. It is said that when she returned to the hospital with the finished the wax model and laid it beside the baby the onlookers could hardly tell which was the live baby and which was the doll. The doll's realistic coloring was achieved by patting paint from oil tubes onto the wax. A cloth body made of one piece of fabric and designed so the legs turned inward in a naturalistic position completed the doll.
Grace Putnam's doll was the first ever on the market to resemble a newborn child and it became an instant success. In 1922 distributers George Borgfeldt & Co. commissioned the first Bye-Lo babies that were made of German bisque and hand-blown glass eyes. They soon after commissioned several German and American manufacturers to produce a variety of Bye-Lo Dolls including some with heads made of wax and in one case wood. Putnam was never completely satisfied with the look of many of the dolls feeling that the life-like nuances were lost in the manufacturing process. This sentiment is expressed in a letter to the museum's former curator, and great lover of dolls, Mrs. Coulter, who is responsible for establishing a relationship with Putnam.
Their relationship led to the donation of a 1922 wax head Bye-Lo Baby cast from Putnam's orignial, a mold used to form the first bisque version, several other variety of the Bye-Lo and other Putnam dolls, and many of Putnam's descriptive hand written letters and documents. Grace S. Putnam is often referred to as the 'great American success story' in doll lore, she was the most known doll designer of her time.
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