Happy Mother’s Day! Mother and Papoose Skookum Doll

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Another departure from clothespin dolls but I couldn’t resist sharing with you this beautiful Mother and Papoose Skookum Doll. It just seemed so fitting for Mother’s Day!

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 McAboy oversaw the production of the Skookum dolls for approximately 38 years and retired in 1952. She passed away in Denver, Colorado at the age of eighty-four in 1961.

The original Mary McAboy handmade Skookum dolls heads were made from dried apples which changed to composition when they went into factory production. Skookum’s didn’t have arms but were wrapped with folded blankets so it looked like they had folded arms. Bodies/torsos were made of wood with straw, grass, twigs, leaves stuffed and sewn into a muslin sack. Legs were made of wooden dowel rods. Shoes, feet or moccasins were made with felt, leather or suede over wood. Hair was made of mohair or cotton string. These dolls were adorned with blankets, jewelry and other accessories. In later productions, the Skookum dolls heads, bodies, shoes and feet were made of plastic.




5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Charlotte
    May 13, 2012 @ 17:01:20

    Hi ~ I hopped over to your blog from E.C. and found it such fun! I have a sister-in-law who has a collection of Skoocum dolls so I’m going to forward this to her. I’ve worked some with clothespin dolls; making their clothes is difficult for me but you’ve made it look easy so maybe I’ll give it another try.


    • dollsofthewoods
      May 13, 2012 @ 17:50:11

      Thank you Charlotte! Dressing the clothespin dolls are a challenge but that’s what makes it so much fun! Please do give clothespin dolls another try and post photos. Thanks for checking out my blog.


  2. myaoo
    May 13, 2012 @ 17:33:06

    Thank you for sharing a beautiful Mother and Papoose Skookum Doll and the history of Skookum Doll.


  3. E.C.
    May 14, 2012 @ 20:04:23

    These dolls are lovely and so nostalgic. Wonderful info and history you’ve written on them. Who’d of thought these dolls started out being created with dried apple heads? Amazing. Ms. McAboy was quite talented. 🙂


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