Kestner JDK Dolls 1820-1938 German
King of Doll Makers – Johann Daniel Kestner (JDK) of Waltershausen, Thuringia, Germany began making papier mache and wood dolls and toys as early as 1816. Kestner eventually went on to employ nearly three quarters of the inhabitants of the Waltershausen region which earned him the nickname “King Kestner”.
In 1858 J.D. Kestner passed away and his grandson Adolf eventually took over the running of the company, around 1860 Kestner produced wax over papier mache doll heads, by 1860 they acquired the Ohrdruf porcelain factory and began to produce the bisque dolls known by collectors today. Kestner was one of the few German doll makers to produce the entire doll – head and body.
Kestner kid leather bodies may have a label; Celebrated “crown dolls”, Excellence, Excelsior, Marvel, Par Excellence or Perfection along with the Kestner crown and streamer label. Unique to Kestner doll heads are the plaster like pates, also most Kestner dolls do Not have pierced ears.
Kestner supplied most of the bisque heads used by Catterfelder Puppenfabrik (Carl Trautmann) doll molds 263, 264, also some bisque heads for Roullet et Decamps walking dolls; Bébé Systême and L’Intrépide Bébé and heads for Fischer, Naumann & Company. Rheinische Gummi und Celluloid-Fabrik supplied Kestner with celluloid heads (doll mold 201) and other doll parts. Kestner made all bisque Rose O’Neill Kewpie dolls, including the very rare blind closed eyes or sleeping eye Kewpie, the eyes on these Kewpie dolls were intentionally left unfinished, unpainted at the factory, marked on back of head JDK plus other words.
Antique Kestner Dolls Identified
Note click photos to enlarge to see the details
ca. 1890s Kestner JDK Schmitt type XI, 13″ bisque shoulder head doll, feathered brows, glass sleep eyes, closed mouth, kid leather body, wigged, plaster pate, doll mark XI.
Kestner JDK 8 AT type, bisque swivel head doll 15 1/2″, feathered brows, glass sleep eyes, upper, lower painted lashes, closed mouth, kid leather body, doll mark 8
Kestner JDK 12S, bisque socket head doll, heavy feathered brows, glass sleep eyes, upper, lower painted lashes, closed mouth, composition jointed body, doll mark H made in Germany 12, 12S
** Kestner doll mold 171, only the 18″ tall size doll was used as the Daisy doll as a mail in premium magazine subscription, introduced in 1911 as Lettie Lane’s actual doll, from the paper doll series Lettie Lane that ran in the Ladies Home Journal magazine from 1908 to 1912. Heinrich Handwerck‘s Bébé Cosmopolite 18″ doll was also used.
Kestner dolls were distributed by Borgfeldt , Butler Brothers, Century Doll Co., Horsman, Macy, Sears, Siegel Cooper, FAO Schwartz and probably others. Some named Kestner dolls are: Baby Jean doll (so called Hilda’s sister), Dainty Dorothy, Sally, Sammy (JDK + size number), Daisy doll mold 171 only the 18″ tall size, Hilda doll molds 237, 245, 1070, Max doll mold 186a, Moritz doll mold 186b, the all bisque Prize Baby doll mold 208 of which some labels say Brize Baby and Siegfried doll mold 272.
Kestner doll marks & mold numbers with images