The Nebraska History Museum is privileged to have a wonderful doll collection, which we have recently been recataloging. This one caught my eye, as it’s not every day that you see a doll with a cigarette in its mouth.
This type of doll is known as a boudoir doll because they were often used as decorations on beds. They were also called French Dolls, Bed Dolls, or Flapper Dolls. They were most popular from about 1915 to 1930, and were often clothed in the extreme fashions of the time. Some were dressed as flappers or wore pant suits, clown outfits, theatrical clothing, or patriotic attire.
Typically, boudoir dolls had painted features, very long limbs and wore high heels. Marlene Dietrich was the inspiration for some of the dolls. It was not uncommon for dolls to have cigarettes in their mouths.
This particular doll is “Carmen the Cigarette Girl”, and she was originally from George Bros., a Lincoln stationary store. Apparently, the store loaned her out as a “party doll.” Carmen was collected by Lincoln doll collector Ellizabeth Gaylord Rathburn, who donated her to the Nebraska State Historical Society in the 1940s. If Carmen could talk, I imagine she would have a few stories to tell.
Laura Mooney, Museum Registrar