American Folk Art 1930s Limberjacks/Pair of Dancing Jig Dolls
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This pair of wooden limberjacks were hand made and hand painted in the 1930's. Limberjacks, also known as jig dolls, paddle dancers and dancing toys, have jointed arms, hips and legs that "jig" on a board to imitate step dancing. Although some limbertoys were produced commercially, they have always been essentially home made entertainment, as these two are. We believe that both were made at the same time by the same carver and represent performers in a minstrel or vaudeville show.* Most often accompanied by music and song, the limberjack "danced" on a board, often paddle shaped and sometimes the bread board from the kitchen, that was vibrated by the tapping of the musician's foot. While these were classified as toys, musicians used them to accompany their folk song performances in shows and pubs.
The wires, 10 and 11 inches long, attached to the backs of these jiggers with 2 different types of fasteners, end in a loop for controlling the toy. Though not exactly equal in height, typical of hand made carvings, they are each a bit over 11 inches tall. The white-faced dancer wears a derby hat and carries a cane in his left hand. The black-faced dancer wears a bow tie and spats. They are both in very good condition, intact in every way and very much "danceable." Their paint, while showing a bit of wear in places, is in fine vintage condition. This pair of limberjacks are a wonderful addition to a folk art collection.
* The poster shown in one of our photos, courtesy of Wikipedia, advertises a 1900 minstrel show, with a Caucasian man who also appears in "blackface" during the act.