Thursday, October 13, 2016

Of Girls & Dolls

As any doll collector, or holiday gift shopper, can tell you, the majority of dolls are female. There are little boy dolls to be found, to be sure; but they are fewer and farther between than girl dolls. This is no accident. Nor is is some gender-stereotyping conspiracy on the part of toy and doll companies. (After all, they are in the business of making money and would likely relish the opportunity to sell more dolls to more boys!) From baby dolls to fashion dolls, female dolls just sell better. And that is due in no small part to the fact that the majority of those buying, playing with, and collecting dolls are female themselves.

Science seems to show that girls play with dolls because they’re programmed to, that this biological predilection is likely hardwired into our DNA. Along with studies with chimps, there is a long human history to turn to as well.

In 1929, Marjorie MacDill wrote an article entitled Ancient Dolls and Toys Tell Whole History of Race, in which she consulted with Dr. Karl Groeber of Dresden, Germany, a man who studied the history of toys, specifically as they portray the minds of children throughout the ages. According to Groeber, "[F]rom prehistoric times down to the present, a little girl's play interests always have kept to one orbit. Her mother's round of household duties is the model for her play until the end of childhood. Her doll's dress may reflect the change of time in crinoline, stiff brocade or Scotch kilts. Her doll's house may have four-post beds or old-time cradles, but the idea underlying the little girl's paraphernalia of playthings remains the same."

In other words, the play of little girls readies them for their grown-up roles in the world. And female dolls reflecting their own images, present and future..

Along with building maternal and nurturing skills, dolls have been used as learning aids in other ways. Dollhouses, for example, teach girls about running a household. Anatomically correct dolls have been used for centuries to educate doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, as well as to assist in communication with children and other patients. All of this seems to make sense when it comes to baby dolls, miniatures, and lifelike dolls; but what about fashion dolls?

Fashion dolls do more than just display the fashion trends of the era (or a past era). Years ago, fashion dolls also taught sewing, knitting, and other needlework skills. For even if a young girl couldn't actually design fashions, she could learn how to follow a pattern and learn a skill set that would serve herself and her future family. She might even find she’s prepared herself for a career as a seamstress.

In today's world, however, there is less emphasis on the creation of fashions for fashion dolls. At least at the general consumer level. As many doll collectors well know, there is a whole world of self-made, custom, and even one of a kind (OOAK) dolls and fashions that one can get into, either by trying their own hand or by testing their own wallet. But even if fashion design and sewing skills seem to be lacking in today’s fashion doll world, there are things girls can learn from fashion dolls.

In the dressing, accessorizing, styling of the hair, and, in some cases, application of makeup, fashion dolls teach styling and grooming skills. These skills matter in women's lives -- no matter how some may wish to deny or diminish it.

At a simple level, it’s as important to know what to wear to the beach as it is to know what is appropriate to wear (or not to wear) to the office. On a more complex level, a girl has the opportunity to mentally try on the career once her doll wears the related costume. And of course, there’s always room for dreamy fantasy play too.

As for why adults return to dolls, there are many reasons for us to once again pick up our childish things.

Nostalgia, is one of the largest reasons. Whether we are returning to our old friends, or getting the friends we wished we’d had when we were young, we like to revisit our childhood in healthy ways. Some with children grown and gone from our homes find dolls a great place to invest our still-here maternal and nurturing instincts. A few of us return to dolls to tackle skills, like sewing, that we didn’t have the chance to master before.

Many of us admire and collect the artistry and craftsmanship of skilled doll makers; dolls are the art we wish to surround ourselves with. And, like art collectors, more than a few doll collectors hope they are investing in pieces that will continue to be valued in the future.

Some of us are drawn to pieces from a past that is nowhere near our own. Others find themselves collecting today’s creations to stay connected to younger generations. And some of us do both. For it is through dolls that we feel connected to those who’ve come and gone before us and those who will be here after us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Nine Cents Makes The Difference

It's called psychological pricing, and even though people are aware that everything is priced ending with 99¢ we still gravitate towards those slightly-lower prices. But, how long has this been going on?    It must have started sometime with price sticker guns, or maybe with the UPC code?    Nope:  here's an article from 1898 outlining the psychological preference for prices ending in 9.


Fascination of the Bargain Counters, Nine Cent Goods Sell Better Than Eight. 

In speaking of special sales the other day and of the figures that seem to attract the public the most, as well as the class of customers who frequent these sales, an old and successful merchant said:

 "There is a fascination in odd numbers that always draws purchasers. Now, I will call your attention to some of the marked-down articles that are being sold on our bargain counter. Notice those neckties that are marked at 37½ cents' three for a dollar; it is an actual fact that we sold twice as many of them at 37½ cents as we would sell at 35, and we sell as many again by allowing three for $1. When a man sees them selling at 37½ cents he naturally imagines that they are 50-cent goods, and he reasons that he can get three cheaper than he can one, so he takes three. He really does get a bargain, but he would not take it at a less attractive figure.

"Speaking of odd numbers, it is a curious fact that some are much more attractive than others. Nine cents, for instance, is one of the most attractive figures, and sells more goods than 8 cents would. Thirteen and 17 cents are by no means so good as 19 cents for running off an extra line, while 21 and 23 are comparatively poor sellers. Thirty-seven and a half cents is a great favorite, and better than 39 by far. Forty-nine used to be much better than it is now. I attribute the fact that it is less popular to the number of jokes that have been made upon it.

"When you get above 50 cents people commence to look more at the real value of a thing and less at the price charged. Seventy-nine cents is a great favorite, and 99 is one of the best figures still that we have to sell at, although not so good as it used to be. It will sell, however, 25 per cent. more goods than $1."—Washington Post.

This appeared in the Bismarck (ND) Tribune on 5 September, 1898, but is attributed to the Washington Post; it also appeared in the August 1898 edition of the Practical Druggist and Review of Reviews, and a number of other local newspapers as a wire story.

This was at a time when a penny was the equivalent of a quarter today: the difference between $1.99 and $2.00 had a genuine impact on a shopper's pocketbook, unlike today when it's an accounting fudge that only adds up over a week's worth of transactions.

Note: I did try to figure out what "jokes" the number 49 precipitated at the time, but the only possible connection I could think would be regarding the 1849 gold rush, which seems an odd thing to dissuade shoppers, so the actual jokes may be an 'improper' sort of thing to print in the paper.

But, when it comes down to it, retailers have been using psychological pricing for at least a hundred and twenty years, encouraging people to buy products with nines in the prices.  Like today, your grandmother probably knew about the pricing tricks -- but like today, still bought them anyway!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Recipes From The Prairie

The Bad Lands Cow Boy (spaces intentional) was one of the earliest newspapers in Dakota Territory -- positioned out in the far west edge of the region, with very little else was in the area.   Those that lived in the badlands were homesteading pioneers, trying to eke out a living with miles upon miles between their home and civilization.

So, you can imagine the newspaper's recipe section is designed to be simple, difficult to mess up, and requiring a minimum of basic ingredients.   Here's a selection from February, 1884:

Recipes for "Home."
  • Cookies.--One cup butter, one cup sugar, two eggs, well beaten, one teaspoonful soda, and one tablespoonful ginger; flour to make a soft dough; roll thin and bake quickly.
  • Roll Jelly Cake.--Three eggs, well beaten; one cup butter; one cup sugar; one cup flour; one teaspoonful soda, and nutmeg to suit your taste; bake ten minutes in long pan; spread with jelly and roll; wrap in a cloth around it till cool.
  • Lazy Woman's Pie.--Two eggs, two tablespoons sugar, two heaping tablespoons flour, two-thirds of a pint of sweet milk; flavor same as custard pie, and bake without a crust in a buttered pie-tin.
  • Currant Pudding.--Two eggs, one-fourth cup sugar, two tablespoons butter, two-thirds pint sour milk, and one-half teaspoonful soda; flour enough to make a thick batter; then flour one teacupful of English currants, stir them in, and steam one and one-half hours; to be eaten with cream and sugar, or pudding sauce.
  • Lemon Jelly.--Juice of one lemon, one cup sugar, one egg, one tablespoonful butter; boil till thick.

If you're unfamiliar with your nineteenth-century cooking terminology, here's some help:

You'll note that all these ingredients are the kind of pantry materials that don't require special storage or (like milk and eggs) can be gotten directly from the source on short notice.  The exact sort of things you'd have bought in bulk in town, a couple month's-worth at a time, because you might be stuck on your claim for a while before you can get back into town again.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

The February (And Final) Monthly Vintage Macaroon Cookie Recipe

This February brings us to the completion of the monthly macaroon recipes... *sigh* At least it is a clever Lollipop idea for Valentine's Day! (Remember, you start with this basic recipe!)

Friday, January 1, 2016

January's Vintage Macaroon Of The Month Recipe

Because we did not begin posting in January, it may seem that I forgot the recipe -- but it is the basic Lever House Macaroon Recipe.

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