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Meet American Girl Doll Samantha Parkington – Learn about Life in the Early 1900s

The American Girl Doll Samantha Parkington was born in Mount Bedford, New York, in 1895. People call that era the Gay Nineties or the Turn of the Century, meaning the turn from the 19th Century to the 20th Century. This period of history is also called the Victorian era. Queen Victoria ruled England from 1837 to 1901.

Victorianism affected many things in both England and America. The Victorian style of architecture is especially notable. Samantha’s house was based on a Victorian house in Mount Kisco, New York. Here is a quote:

“Author Valerie Tripp grew up in Mt. Kisco, New York, and she passed this house every day on her way to school. The Victorian home inspired the one she wrote about in Samantha’s stories.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 66.

I love Victorian houses, and I relate to many things about the Victorian era. That is when my grandparents were young. In many ways, I am still connected to that time period, and Samantha felt connected to her own time period and the times before her. Although she was born in the 1800s. She was a child in 1904. Here is a quote:

“Samantha is growing up at the start of a new century, and the world is changing fast. Samantha is excited by new ideas, but her grandmother, Grandmary, insists that the old ways of doing things are best. Sometimes Samantha feels torn between the two worlds she lives in.” American Girl The Story of America, p. 34

When Samantha Parkington was first released in 1986, she wore a plain, checked dress. It was like a school dress. When Samantha was re-released as a Beforever Doll in 2014, she arrived in a frilly pink dress.

Here is what the American Girl website says about Samantha and her Beforever Meet Outfit:

Samantha Parkington is kind, generous, and always ready to make a new friend. She has sparkling brown eyes that open and close and long, glossy brown curls. She comes in an authentic 1904 outfit [which includes]:

  • A petal-pink dress with a layer of sheer dotted mesh on top, a lace hem and collar, short puff sleeves, and a burgundy velvet sash
  • White tights
  • White bloomers [or underpants]
  • Black Mary Jane shoes
  • A burgundy ribbon for her hair

Samantha’s accessories include a velvet purse and a locket. Here is what the American Girl website says about Samantha’s Accessories:

When Samantha is out and about, she always brings her favorite accessories:

  • A golden locket necklace that she keeps close to her heart
  • A lace headband featuring a pretty two-tone flower with pearly accents at the center
  • A velvet burgundy purse on a golden chain, just in case she walks by Mr. Carruthers’ Candy Shop—or a friend in need

 

Although the books tell us that Samantha would rather be climbing trees than acting like a proper lady, I see Samantha as lacey and fine. Her pink coat and hat are part of my favorite American Girl outfit. Beneath her pink coat in this picture, Samantha is wearing her Flower Picking Dress and Button Up Boots. Again, Samantha’s clothes are some of my favorite clothes. In the right photo, Samantha is carrying her Traveling Bag in one hand and her Lacy Parasol in the other. American Girl still sells the Lacy Parasol.

Quite often, Victorian homes have fancy, little garden houses or shelters behind them. These are called Gazebos, and Samantha has a Gazebo. In this picture, Samantha is serving her Summertime Treats in her Gazebo. You can still buy Samantha’s Summertime Treats. Here is what the American Girl website says about them:

Samantha is ready for a delightful afternoon party! Her celebration will be the sweetest one yet with this set [which includes]:

  • Colorful faux petits fours to serve on a golden-rimmed plate with a dainty doily
  • Two pink glasses
  • A matching pink vase for holding the flowers that Samantha picked that morning
  • A lacy fan to help her keep cool
  • A pair of napkins

Samantha often paints while she is out in her gazebo, too. Here is a quote about Samantha and her interest in art:

“Painting and drawing are popular hobbies for young ladies at the turn of the century. Samantha’s dream is to be a professional painter one day, like her hero, the famous Mary Cassatt.” American Girl The Story of America, p. 34

Mary Cassatt was an Impressionist painter, and she is known for her paintings of mothers with their children. Most Impressionists were from France and were men. Mary Cassatt was from American, and she was a woman.

In this picture, Samantha is dressed in her School Outfit, which has a Buster Brown look to it. Buster Brown was a comic strip character created in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault, and he was adopted as the mascot of the Brown Shoe Company in 1904. Samantha Parkington’s tenth birthday was in 1904. Buster Brown, his sweetheart Mary Jane, and his dog Tige, an American Pit Bull Terrier, were well-known to the American public in the early 20th century. The character’s name was also used to describe a popular style of suit for young boys, the Buster Brown suit, that echoed his own outfit.[1] Wikipedia

Mary Jane Shoes are typically black with straps across the top. They are named for Buster Brown’s sweetheart Mary Jane. Like Buster Brown and his girlfriend, Samantha often wears Mary Jane shoes.

When Samantha Parkington was a child, only the wealthier children were able to go to school, but they didn’t dress for school the way that we do today. They also sat in different kinds of desks. Because there were no cafeterias at school when she was a child, Samantha carried her lunch to school in a tin pail.

When she was a child, Samantha made the acquaintance of a poor girl named Nellie, and poor children were not allowed to stay in school. They had to quit school and go to work early–while they were still children. Regardless of the fact that Samantha was wealthy and Nellie was poor, Samantha was Nellie’s friend, and Samantha invited Nellie to her parties, and she shared her toys with her.

Samantha’s Aunt Cornelia rallied for the rights of women. She was what is called a Suffragist or a Suffragette. Like her aunt, Samantha also rallied, but she rallied for the rights of children, and she spoke out against child labor, the tradition that forced poor children like Nellie to quit school and go to work. Samantha’s Aunt Cornelia ultimately adopts Nellie, and Nellie has privileges, too.

When Samantha was a child, the horse and buggy days were beginning to end, and people were finding other ways to travel. Bicycles were very popular, and Samantha had a bicycle. Samantha called her grandmother Grandmary, and although it did not make her Grandmary happy, Samantha got a pair of pants to make riding her bicycle easier. Samantha’s bicycle pants were called bloomers. Here is a quote:

“Amelia Bloomer popularized bloomers (loose-fitting pants) for women. She believed that ladies should wear comfortable fashions for activities such as cycling.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 36.

During the Victoria era, children often wore sailor outfits. Queen Victoria’s children’s portraits were done in sailor suits. Samantha’s bathing suits look like sailor suits. The skirt of Samatha’s Piney Point bathing suit opens, and she wears bloomers underneath the skirt.

When Samantha was a child, Teddy Roosevelt was elected president. He was president from 1901 – 1908. Because he had refused to shoot a bear while out hunting, the first Teddy bear was created in honor of President Roosevelt. Samantha received a Teddy bear for her birthday in 1904.

But my favorite of Samantha’s toys is her Clara doll, which is no longer made. Samantha received her doll for Christmas. I am happy to say that my Samantha doll has a Clara doll–a doll of her own. You might want to check out my video about the American Girl Dolls Who Have Dolls of Their Own. Samantha was wearing her Cranberry Christmas Dress in her Christmas Story Book: Samantha’s Surprise.

Samantha’s Cranberry Christmas Dress is part of her original wardrobe. It is designed in the Victorian Blouson syle, which was popular during the Turn of the Century. Here is a definition of Blouson: a woman’s outer garment having a drawstring, belt, or similar closing, at or below the waist, which causes it to blouse. .[or poof above the waist].  Samantha’s original outfit patterns also include her Winter Plaid Cape and Garters, and her Birthday Dress and Pinafore.

©Jacki Kellum March 19, 2017

 

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Meet the American Girl Doll Kirsten Larson Learn America’s History

Kirsten Larson was a child in 1854 and from the Minnesota Territory, before it became a state. If  you consider Marie-Grace and Cecile as a unit, Kirsten is the sixth historical American Girl doll.

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Kirsten Larson is from nearly the same time period as Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the Little House on the Prairie books, and she lived in almost the same part of the USA. Both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Kirsten Larson were pioneer girls, and Kirsten Larson attends school in a school house that is much the same as the school house where Laura Ingalls Wilder attended school. In this picture, you see Kirsten in her red school dress and shawl. This is one of Kirsten’s original outfits.

At school, Kirsten sat on a little log bench, and she carried her lunch in a little wooden box called a tine. Because Kirsten had difficulty speaking English, she initially had trouble making new friends, but going to school helped her make friends and helped her improve her English, too. Kirsten’s teacher was Miss Winston, and when Miss Winston came to live with the Larsons, Kirsten began to learn English more quickly. After that, she made friends more easily.

Here is a quote from a very good book about American Girl Dolls:

“With a pioneering spirit, Kirsten and her family leave their home in Sweden to set sail for America. After many months of traveling, they finally arrive in the Minnesota Territory. Everything in the New World is strange, but friends and family help Kirsten find the true meaning of home.: American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 57.

Kirsten Larson’s school Recess Outfit Includes the blue coat that she is wearing in the bottom photo. Here is a quote about Kirsten’s school, friends, and recess;

“At first, Kirsten finds it difficult to adjust to school in Minnesota. Between lessons, Kirsten’s classmates play games outdoors. Always excited to try new things, Kirsten joins in the fun. She soon makes new friends and settles in. Having made new friends in Minnesota feels more like an American. For her birthday Kirsten’s friends give her a quilt. It’s signed, ‘For Kirsten Larson on her 10th birthday.’ ” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 56.

You also see Kirsten’s bed and  trunk in this photo. They are hand-painted in traditional Scandinavian style. Kirsten’s family brought this furniture with them from Sweden, and they store their treasures in the trunk.

Kirsten Larson’s doll Sari is one of the treasures that traveled from Sweden in the trunk. Kirsten’s rag doll is very much how I imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder’s doll that she received for Christmas in Little House in the Big Woods. The Kirsten Doll has a doll of her own, and her name is Sari. You might want to check out my post and video about American Girl Dolls Who Have Dolls of Their Own.

Because they had to sail across the ocean to live in America, the Swedish immigrants couldn’t pack and bring many things with them. They didn’t even have much silverware–or in Kirsten’s case–wooden ware. When the Swedish immigrants visited each other’s homes for dinner or parties, they would carry their own eating utensils with them. Kirsten carried her wooden spoon in a spoon bag that she tied around her waist. Here is another quote:

“Swedish immigrants owned just enough utensils for their own families. They could not bring much with them on their voyage. Guests carried their own utensils in spoon bags when they went to other immigrants’ homes for parties.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 56.

Kirsten’s home in Minnesota was in the top of the northern part of the USA, and that is an area that gets very cold during the winter. At the time when Kirsten was a child, some of the winters were brutally cold where she lived. Laura Ingalls Wilder often wrote about living in these northern territories as a pioneer. One of Wilder’s books is titled The Long Winter. Because she lived where it was so cold, Kirsten has many beautiful winter outfits. Kirsten even had a pair of snow shoes and a pair of ice skates that strap around her boots. Kirsten’s red boots are still highly prized among collectors, and several companies sell red look-alike boots. Here is another quote:

“To help keep Kirsten warm, her mother knits a sweater, hat, and mittens using traditional Scandinavian patterns.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 58.

One of Kirsten’s most prized outfits is her Saint Lucia outfit. Here are more quotes about Kirsten, her winters, and her celebrations of Saint Lucia:

“Saint Lucia’s Day is a holiday celebrated during winter in Sweden to welcome the arrival of lighter days to come. Kirsten dresses up in a special outfit on this day. The Saint Lucia wreath that Kirsten wears symbolizes the coming of brighter days.” American Girl The Story of America, p. 26.

“Kirsten’s first winter in Minnesota feels long and cold and she is tired of spending all day stuck inside her family’s tiny cabin. To make matters worse, celebrating her first Christmas in America makes Kirsten homesick. Kirsten is determined to continue the family’s Swedish traditions in America. Kirsten sets out her family’s holiday items to make the cabin feel like their home in Sweden.” American Girl Ultimate Visual Guide, p. 58.

If you look at my American Girl Doll Map, you will see that with the addition of Kirsten Larson, the American Girl Doll homes have begun to circle the continental United States of America. Kaya, from 1764 is from the Northwest. Felicity Merriman from 1774, is from Williamsburg, Virginia, which is completely across the country from Kaya, on the East coast. Caroline Abbot, from 1812, is from upstate New York, on Lake Ontario, and Josefina Montoya, from 1824 is from Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is in the Southwest. With Kirsten Larson, we have another doll from the North of the USA, and she is from Minnesota.

One thing that I love about American Girl Dolls is that they help us realize how much of a melting pot America is. If we are all perfectly honest, we must admit that every human in America is an immigrant. Kaya and other Native Americans arrived here before the rest of us, but even the people that we call “Native Americans” are immigrants. At one time, the waters that separated the USA and Asia were a solid land mass, and the Native Americans walked across that land and migrated from Asia to America.

Felicity Merriman’s family immigrated across the Atlantic Ocean from England to Virginia, and Kirsten Larson’s family immigrated across the same ocean from Sweden to Minnesota. Both Felicity and Kirsten immigrated from the continent of Europe.

©Jacki Kellum March 13, 2017