Delicate dolls of history

by Shannon Rae Gentry
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Staff photo by Allison Potter 

Laura Poteat holds an SFBJ French doll from the early 1900s at her home in Wilmington. Left: This Jumeau French doll from the late 1800s is Poteat’s favorite of those in her collection.

In years past, the Latimer House of the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear once opened its doors to teas, luncheons and private parties. Now, Heather Van Fossen, the program coordinator for the society, said last Wednesday, May 1, that the house will once again host quarterly teas.

“We try to have periodic teas… and I thought that for Mother’s Day it’d be really fun for mothers, daughters, grandmothers and special friends to come,” she said about this weekend’s “Mothers, Daughters and Dolls” Victorian tea on Saturday, May 11, featuring a program on antique Victorian dolls.

Not just geared toward children and their mothers, Van Fossen said that this tea caters to all ages that are interested in the evolution of dolls that many young children have enjoyed over centuries.

For the first seating at 10:30 a.m., Van Fossen said that everyone would have time to look through the house and its current collection of toys before the presentation at noon, followed by the second seating at 1 p.m. open to adults only.

“We tried to allow time for everyone to enjoy the toys in [the house] and then we have someone coming who makes reproductions of dolls. … She’ll have her dolls on display and talk about them,” Van Fossen said.

The speaker, Laura Poteat, is the school librarian at Myrtle Grove Christian School and volunteers with the Historical Society. She said that with her extensive collection of antique dolls, she will concentrate on the dolls of the Victorian era, how they were made and the type of girls who played with them.

“In the early 1800s most of the dolls were wooden, then they went to what we call china and they were very breakable, but also plentiful. After that in the early 1800s were the bisque [porcelain] dolls that had beautiful coloring and were very life-like,” she explained.

“Some were very costly and only for the very privileged and yet, eventually, it became mass-produced so that just about every child could afford some sort of doll out of bisque material,” she said.

Choosing from the other favorites in her collection, Poteat said she plans to bring a life-sized French doll that has realistic glass paperweight eyes and human hair. 

“It really was considered one of the best dolls ever made,” she said.

Poteat said that her interest in antique dolls originated in a visit to a museum much like the Latimer House many years ago. 

“When I was a child, I went to a historic museum on Cape Cod, Mass., and they had a child’s room that had all sorts of bisque antique dolls, and I remember thinking that I had never seen anything more beautiful,” she said.

The Wilmington Tea Room will prepare food and everyone is invited to bring favorite dolls from home. Pre-paid reservations are required at $25 for adults and $12 for children ages 6-15, and can be made by calling 910-762-0492.

For more about future teas or reserving the Latimer House tearoom, visit


Copyright 2014 Lumina News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


 Email this to a friend    Printable version