Laura fans have a special spot in their hearts for rag dolls. Laura’s Charlotte doll is an important touchstone in the series and a Charlotte doll is often an
early addition to any Laura Ingalls Wilder collection ranking right up there with a set of the books themselves and a bonnet. For a long time I held off on collecting Laura or Charlotte dolls because you can’t collect everything and this was one whole category I could just not collect. Then I started the Laura Ingalls Wilder: What a Doll program and the Rubicon was crossed. A recent purchase was this ragdoll kit from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa which explains in the accompanying information about the oldest known rag doll (the link shows both the kit and includes the information). http://www.historicalfolktoys.com/catcont/4715.html
I was intrigued and looked for more information on Bangwell Putt of the Puckmtuck Valley Memorial Society in Deerfield, MA (I copied that spelling from their own website I assume it’s correct). An early, but brief mention in this The Doll Book from 1908, showed that Bangwell Putt had long been known within the doll community. She rated her own picture book since 1965; The Journey of Bangwell Putt by Mariana.
Wendy Lawton, who also designed one of the Ashton Drake Laura Ingalls Dolls, has even created a doll of Bangwell Putt and her owner Clarissa Fields as they appeared when she was new.
Bangwell Putt was a rag doll given to a girl named Clarissa Field in approximately 1770. Clarissa had several dolls all with fanciful names which a family member described and wrote down in what is now the Field Family Papers in the historical society’s records. Clarissa was born blind and relied on touch to learn about the world. The memorial society has speculated that is why Bangwell has no face but, unusually for a rag doll, 10 clearly individualized fingers. Bangwell was also exceptionally well dressed down to having a corset of her own. Clarissa kept Bangwell all her life until she was in her 80s. Most ragdolls weren’t so lucky, not many have survived long term. Bangwell Put now resides in Memorial Hall Museum on Memorial Street off Routes 5&10, in Deerfield, Massachusetts.
The Memorial Society who owns Bangwell has put her online:
For some reason today when I went to check this post the image wasn’t working, but it is in the archived version so if the link above won’t show the image try this one:
Check out the link to the Wendy Lawton doll above to see how Bangwell might have looked when she was new.
Updated September 25, 2015: I checked and updated links and added an updated signature block.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.