You Are Being Watched - The Victorian Era Wax Doll

Do you have a Victorian Era Wax doll...? Do you know about the process of making your beloved possession?

     The Victorian era wax doll was truly one of the statements of class in those days. If you owned one of the dolls in that time, this meant you were upper class in society. Often these dolls were made in the image of Queen Victoria's children, and dressed in fine clothing. There certainly were variations, but still based on the royal children. They are still made to this day, but often made from plastic and other cheap synthetic material, and anyone can own one. But for those who have a real Victorian era doll, the process that went into their construction and artistic design is a little creepy.

     The doll maker of that time was not an industrial factory in an assembly line, but rather the poorest of the folk, fighting to stay off the streets. Should they end up on the streets, they would often end up in prostitution and robbery just to eat, let alone sadly watching their children starve to death, or living in the feces of back alleys, taking up criminal endeavors until the workhouse comes and takes them away for life, or much worse. Once you were in the workhouse, you were split up and it was very difficult to get out. The doll maker often lived with one foot in the dark and dingy shop and one in the gutter, straddling the line of ruin and despair; one slip and they were done for. Putting ourselves in their shoes, we can see how horrible a situation it was. In our day it is still very hard to make a living as an artist, and yet the families making these dolls were in constant starvation and faced death from their trade if the streets didn't get them first.

     The body parts were made from wax, the head, the hands, the feet. The wax was boiled on the family cookstove, and in some cases the wax would become super heated and combust setting everything on fire, and in other cases the wax spilled on the children causing third degree burns and death. When the wax was boiled, (considering no deaths occurred,) it was poured into clay molds to cast the body parts. The wax was swished around and left until it was cooled. After carefully retrieving the parts from the mold, (providing the wax did not break, or there was an imperfection, and having to clean it and restart the boiling process again;) the head went onto cutting. A hole was cut in the crown of the head and glass eyes were waxed in place. The head was then closed and sealed back up. Next came the hair. Taking a needle they pricked the hairs into place. The hair was unsterilized human hair from barber shops and often coming from dead people, including dead children. The body was then attached to the head, hands and feet after being stuffed with horse hair which carried tuberculosis.

     Next came the painting process. Paint was made from lead in those days. A white paint maker would pile excrement taken from where ever he could find it, place pots on top of the pile filled with coiled strips of lead. The pots were covered with straw, and left for months in a shack and periodically checked. When corrosion had finished due to the chemical reaction, the coils were removed and the white corrosion was scraped off into a powder. When mixed with water, it became a brilliant white paint. It was shipped to the doll makers in powdered batches and often breathed in 24 hours a day, as the doll maker's shop was home as well. The paint was colorized with other powdered substances to achieve the desired colors. Skin color was painted on to the wax pieces. The detailing of the eye brows nostrils, lips and any wrinkles were painted on with extreme care and often the lead paint was licked from the brush to form a detailing point.

     Clothing was then sewn together, bought from fabric makers and could be quite costly for the ornate designs of the clothing and fabric. When finished the amazingly lifelike doll was not allowed to be played with by the children who helped make them, but rather be placed to stare out the window, waiting for a rich spoiled child happening to pass by in this lowly area of the metropolis. If bought, they could make as much as 5 guineas, which accumulated to a whole years wages for the doll maker, however the cost to make each doll, and living quarters would leave the family with just enough to survive, and restart the next doll. Even as Christmas came and went, the children would not get a doll, but receive a small gift if lucky.

     When we think of the time, panicked negative energy, death involved with their creation, it is not surprising some us feel the presence and stare from these dolls, and most often thought of as haunted.

Let us not forget those who gave their lives in crafting these genuine artworks.

Dee McCullay - Dark History.


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