As a rule, I am not overly fond of paper dolls. I find the way they fall over if you breathe on them – not to mention the way their clothes refuse to stay on – exasperating in the extreme.
Despite this, I am rather attached to Mary Bell and Rhoda. Not only are they an excellent reference for Victorian clothing, but I like the way that, although they are very simple and probably not designed to last, a great deal of attention has been lavished on small details like the patterning of the floors and the pleats in the dresses.
Besides which they have such nice expressions and I feel sorry for them in their solid-looking boots and indestructible underwear.
The original dolls were published by Peter G Thompson of Cincinnati and, from their clothes, I think that they date from the late 1870s / early 1880 – but this is a far from reliable guess.
They were printed on a coarse, thick paper and are roughly about 4 inches (5 cm) tall – and in real life they are rather the worse for wear.
My miniature versions have been tidied up – by computer magic – and are just under 1 inch (2.5 cm) tall – well over 12th scale.
It is possible to cut out and dress the dolls at this size and if you would like to try this for yourself the pdf for both miniatures dolls is here – _Mary_Bell_and_Rhoda_Paper_Dolls_OHM_20130129
If you decide to print them, please bear in mind that your computer / printer settings and the paper that you use will make difference to the results that you get.
They are so simple to make that it seemed almost silly to make a slide show about how to fold the booklet and suggest how the dolls could be made to stand up – but I did it anyway.
Below are larger versions of Mary Bell and Rhoda.
They are smaller than the original dolls and, as these are very faded and worn in their original state, I have cleaned them up considerably.
At 72 dpi, they are not the very best print quality, but they are “not bad”.
They should print on to a A 4 piece of paper but, as they are not pdf files, the size will depend on the programme that you use to print them with – on the other hand, as they are not pdf files, you should be able to experiment with the sizing to some extent.