By Karen Billing
A special grown-up tea party in a room full of beautiful dolls was held June 25 at the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society. The tea party celebrated longtime resident Dottie McCrink’s recent donation of more than 100 antique dolls from her personal collection to the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society.
McCrink, who has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 43 years, has collected dolls her entire life. The donation represents dolls from around the world, from baby dolls in bonnets to lifelike dolls with ringlets of hair falling onto their flowing lace dresses.
McCrink said she could tell which ones were the most loved by their worn noses: Their young owners had nuzzled them frequently to their chests.
In her years collecting, McCrink said she was drawn to the pretty and the precious.
Some of the dolls bear cards with descriptions of when McCrink got them — one baby doll’s card read that it was a Christmas gift around 1928 when she was “too old for dolls.” The baby doll still is in its original clothing; even the “By-Low Baby” tag on the dress is worth $50.
One of the most unusual dolls in the collection dates to the Civil War. Fully outfitted in a petticoat and wool dress, it has a porcelain face, painted-on hair, rosy cheeks, and leather hands. McCrink gave the hands a little squeeze and said the hands had to be repaired because the leather had broken down.
“I did the best I could to restore them,” she said.
McCrink said it wasn’t too difficult a decision to share the dolls with the RSF Historical Society.
“I’ve enjoyed them well,” she said. “And I still have many.”
Peggy Brooks, a Historical Society volunteer and former board member, said the plan is to have the dolls appraised.
“Dottie has been a real supporter of the Historical Society throughout the years,” Brooks said.