Skookum dolls, known worldwide for their Native American appeal, were the creation of Mrs. Mary McAvoy of Missoula, Montana. In an interview in the 1920 issue of Playthings Magazine, she stated "Wrapped in their little blankets they looked like the old squaws and bucks we knew so well in our Montana home." Both male and female dolls were patented in 1914 and were originally hand made locally, some with apple heads and some with composition heads. The dolls became so popular that when Mrs. McAvoy moved to Denver, Colorado, she partnered with the H.H. Tammen Company there in 1920, becoming the Director of their Skookum Assembly Division. From that point on, the dolls were factory made; the materials gradually changed to plastic heads, paper shoes and mohair instead of human hair, but the Indian blankets that wrapped around the shoulders of the dolls remained a constant.
This Skookum woman and her baby are wrapped in a piece of decorated trade blanket with Native designs, probably cut from a Hudson's Bay blanket; other possibilities are one from Pendleton Woolen Mills or even a Beacon. She's dressed in a red and white gingham check cotton skirt and collared shirt. Her black mohair wig, parted in the middle and tied with soft fur bands into two braids in front, has a red and white bandanna headband; the baby's mohair wig has an orange headband. Under her skirt are her pine legs, painted black and topped with unbleached muslin pantaloons. Unlike most other dolls, the Skookum's clothes are sewn on permanently, not meant to be removed and played with or changed. Her feet are wrapped in paper boots that are paint decorated with yellow, black and brown slashes. Both the woman's face and the baby's are plastic, beautifully painted with the eyes gazing to the right.
On the bottom of her left foot is the original orange Bully Good label dating to the 1940's. These labels had a Native whirling log symbol on them, but as Hitler rose to power and subverted it into the Nazi Party swastika, the symbol was removed. The doll measures 12 1/2 inches tall and is in excellent condition. The woman's bandanna is faded to pink in front; the original vivid red color can be seen on the back. This is the one indication of ageing we found; even the bottoms of the doll's boots are clean and show no wear. This desirable Skookum Indian doll truly is "Bully Good."
>>The Pacific Northwest model of a native totem pole is available here: