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Wax Squeaker Doll in Egg Candy Container Artifact Highlight #1

This unusual doll has been in our collection since 1949. It is a rare poured wax baby doll that was also a candy container. The doll is nestled in a plaster and papier-mâché egg, as if ready to hatch. There is a squeaker box hidden inside the egg, covered in fabric, which used to be connected to a string that came through a little hole on the side of the egg. Unfortunately, the doll was donated without the string. The head is easily removed to reveal a small container for sweets.

Our doll dates to the late 19th century. Container dolls like this one often had a mark on the back of the head identifying the maker, but unfortunately our mark is illegible. Most poured wax dolls were made in England, but they were also popular in Germany and France. They were made by pouring a molten wax blend of beeswax into a mold. The hollowed poured limbs were then attached to a cloth body. A small amount of wax was used to attach glass eyes and hair. Wax was a fragile material that was easily affected by changes in temperature. It gave dolls beautiful, realistic looking faces, but it was not a very popular dollmaking material.

The donor of our doll, Nella Wilson Hurd, had a fascinating life.

She traveled extensively and was very involved in the community. She was the President of the Belles of ’49. She was the Placer County Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman and she ran for the state assembly in 1950. During WWII she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and served at the DeWitt General Hospital. She was also a baroness. She met her first husband, Baron Von Hochstetter of Germany, while he was on vacation in Oregon. Her husband owned coffee and rubber plantations in Brazil and a week after their marriage he received an urgent call to return. He left his wife behind and tragically died shortly after reaching Brazil. In 1920 Nella married Dr Eugene Trustum Hurd, an army surgeon. His life was as colorful as his wife’s. He was a surgeon general of the Imperial Russian Army on the East Front during WWI and knew czar Nicholas personally. He was a correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War and became very active in veteran affairs of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars during his retirement in Auburn.