Here’s the last of my Skookum Dolls postings. If you wish to see the “Mother and Papoose” Skookum doll and the Skookum “Indian Boy” doll, please go to my May 13th, 2012 and August 4th, 2012 postings.
These sweet faced composition twins were made in the middle to late 1940′s. The Skookum Indian Boy stands 6.5 inches tall and his twin sister stands 6 inches tall.
By the middle to late 1940′s, the moccasins/boots/shoes that were once covered in painted paper, leather or suede gave way to molded plastic. Instead of the old paper labels, the “Trade Mark Reg. Skookum Bully Good Indian Patented U.S.A.” was molded in the plastic. Headbands that were once leather/suede were exchanged for a shiny plastic tape.
The rest of the materials used to make the dolls remained the same: painted molded heads with painted features; short blunt-cut black mohair wigs; paper and cloth wrapped bodies. Felt fringed leggings, wool shirt and wool flannel blanket wrap for the boy. Floral print shirt and skirt and wool flannel blanket wrap for the girl.
It appears these Skookum twins were mailed as a gift from the Navajo-Hopi Trading Co. in Flagstaff, Arizona to a Mrs. Harry Hall of Lake Charles, Louisiana (see photo back of box: July 11, 1949). As you can see, these dolls have not been properly stored as shoes are covered in mildew, clothing is moth eaten and the straw stuffing is showing through the back of the boy’s head. A few beads remain from necklaces worn around the necks of both dolls.
Skookum dolls were composition dolls handmade by Mary McAboy between 1913 and 1920. These dolls resembled Native American people of various tribes.
Mary, who was inspired by the apple head Indian dolls her mother made, decided to make her own little apple head Indian village. The figures were set up in the display window of a local grocery store. Astounded with their successful sales, Mary filed to register trademark the name SKOOKUM in 1917.
The word Skookum is an old slang term still used today in the Northwest Territory of the United States. The word originated from the Chinook or Siwash traders of the American Northwest and has a few meanings. Ask any Northwesterner and they will tell you that Skookum means “Excellent,” “Mighty,” or “Very Good” and to Mary McAboy these little dolls were “Bully Good!”
Skookum’s became so popular and to keep up with the demand, Mary McAboy went into business with H.H. Tammen Co. of Denver, Colorado in 1920. These factory made Skookum dolls (1920′s through the early 1960′s), came in a variety of sizes (2″ souvenir mailers to 3 foot store displays) and styles to represent various tribes, customs and dress. The Skookums were usually sold in tourist spots.
Mary oversaw the production of these dolls for approximately 38 years, and retired in 1952. She passed away in Denver, Colorado at the age of eighty-four on January 3, 1961.