Grace McCance Snyder is best known for her beautiful quilts, including the amazing Flower Basket Petit Point, on display at the Nebraska History Museum. The Museum also has a collection of corncob dolls that Grace made in the style of those she made as a child.
Those of you who have read Grace’s book, No Time on My Hands (available for purchase at the Museum’s Landmark
Store ) may remember Grace’s recollections about her corncob dolls.
Grace’s mother taught her and her sister, Florry, to make corncob dolls. “The papa dolls, made from cobs the mules had stepped on and split part way up, had two legs to put trousers on. The babies–all our Cob families had lots of babies–we made from the tiniest nubbins. Mama helped us dress the dolls in scraps of calico and silk, in beads, braid, and bits of ribbon from her scrap box, and Florry and I spent hours on end in the cornfield at the corn pile, hunting the longest and finest corn silks for hair for our lady dolls. Dried sunflower heads, trimmed with bright barred or speckled chicken feathers, made their fancy hats.”
Grace and Florry made homesteads on either side of the Custer/Dawson County line for their corncob doll families. The homesteads included dugout houses, roads, fences, and even ditches. Although the girls did not travel away from their own homestead very often, the corncob families would travel and visit each other. Florry’s cobs came from Dawson County to visit Grace’s cobs in Custer County and vice versa.
Grace, however, longed for a store-bought doll. “Sometimes my longing to fly above the clouds was strong enough to hurt; as my longing for a “boughten” doll with real hair, or for a sidesaddle like Aunt Bell’s, sometimes hurt.”
Many things we may not appreciate as children ultimately become the source of great memories. The homemade toys, made by or with our loved ones, are often treasured most. As an adult, Grace recreated her childhood corncob dolls and entered them in the Lincoln County Fair, winning a blue ribbon. She donated them to the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1956.
Tell us your story. Post a comment or send us an e-mail.
Laura Mooney, Museum Registrar