A Cherokee Cloth Doll

The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library currently has on exhibit through September, four exhibit cases highlighting Asheville and Western North Carolina Tourism Souvenirs. Of course, the exhibit set us on a research binge, trying to find out all that we could about the local souvenir trade and how it developed. This is the sixth of an ongoing series, sharing some of the images in the exhibit and what we have learned.

We moved to Asheville in mid-2000. As someone always interested in local history I began to read as much as possible about the area, both fiction and non-fiction. With a somewhat limited budget I looked for things that had been made here and was able to pick up some miniature rustic chairs, wooden teapots and jugs with their location spelled out on them, animals carved in Brasstown and small Appalachian and Cherokee baskets. My husband, who is an antique dealer, was also on the lookout for me and one day he came home with this wonderful handmade cloth doll.

cherokee doll 1

cherokee doll 2

We hoped it was Cherokee made, but it wasn’t until we stumbled on this post card that we were pretty sure that we had a Cherokee-made doll. Then, in 2001 Rachel Bonney and J. Anthony Paredes authored Anthropologists and Indians in the New South, published by the University of Alabama Press. They state “Eastern Cherokees make mostly rag dolls dressed in 18th and 19th-century clothing, carrying a baby on their back, for sale to tourists…” So, voila, our doll, probably made circa 1930 to 40 has been identified. She is typical of the few vintage Cherokee dolls that we have seen online and she is a grand souvenir of Western North Carolina.

Post card published by Harry N. Martin; post card type dates to 1930-1945.

The North Carolina Room has several postcards and photographs of Cherokee mothers and their babies that confirm how small children were often carried. Clearly the shawl-like wrap worked well – and is an earlier version of today’s baby carrying wraps.

AC701 copy

J455-8 copy

This photograph of a Cherokee woman with a young child carried on her back is apparently watching an outdoor game and is labeled Foto By Hemmer. John Hemmer, an award-winning press photographer, served as official photographer for the State of North Carolina. From 1944 to 1950 he traveled to Western North Carolina several times and photographed Cherokees at work and at play.

Post by Lynne Poirier-Wilson, Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member.


1 Comment

  1. Hi Carol,

    I got this today from Pack’s NC Room blog. Doll is so interesting! I don’t remember seeing it last night. But we went quickly. Or it may be in the cases upstairs we did not go to.

    (I looked up “How far is it to Cherokee?” About 55 miles and 1 hr 18 min. according to Google Maps. )

    Sent from my iPhone

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