I was intrigued by this set of Elsie Dinsmore paper dolls when I spotted it on an online British antique store! It is not your average paper doll set but was used to advertise actual dresses for sale at a General Store in Belgrade, Montana. The back of each of the paper doll dresses specifies the style number of the dress that could be purchased.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Elsie Dinsmore, she is a fictional character created by Martha Finley and whose story was told through a series of books written between 1867 and 1905. In the beginning of the series, Elsie is living with her wealthy paternal grandfather because her mother died during childbirth. She encounters many trials and tribulations along her journey but her strong faith in God carries her through. The series encompasses her whole life – beginning when she’s a child and following her through adulthood.
I found an image from a 1916 newspaper that advertises this set of paper dolls at a Missouri store called “Rogers Dry Goods.” It seems like these paper dolls, and the dresses they advertised, were carried in a number of stores across the country.
I love the small details of this set! One dress includes a Kewpie Doll and another, a Teddy Bear. I wish that today’s print advertising was as irresistibly charming!