Paper dolls in Finland 
by Marja-Liisa Lehto MA


The Finnish history of playing with paper dolls is very similar to the European tradition. Imported paper dolls were available in the shops in 19th century. First those were mostly German origin but later on also from other countries. So the Finnish girls could play with Shirley Temple in 1930s and after the II World War admire the Hollywood stars, make Judy laugh and follow the story of Hilda Miloche´s Paper Dolls in the Little Golden Book

You could find paper dolls in the magazines, too, and of course there was a living habit to make them at home - not only children but also the women in all ages. Especially in the late 19th century the paper dolls had wonderful three dimensional dresses made by folding thin silky paper, lace and ribbons. In Oulu (North Finland) two unmarried ladies made that kind of paper dolls also for sale. It is told that young gentlemen used to buy them to their girl friends.


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The artist of the Indian boy "Musta Kotka" (The Black Eagle) is Yrjö Könni. He was a painter and illustrator and started his own publishing company Könni in 1942

For Könni worked also Martti Sonkamo, later a decorator and an advertising artist. His paper dolls were sportive in a boat "Lokki" ("Seagull"), aeroplane or automobile.
Finnish production

The production of printed Finnish paper dolls started in the beginning of 20th century. The idea was connected to a general concern about the lack of a domestic toy-making which had began to raise its head already many years ago. The first tries to toy industry was going on and on its foot steps followed the publishing companies with paper dolls made by Finnish artists. On that time there also were educational ideas in making something to children. "Before we started to print paper dolls we consulted the issue - how they should look - with educators and children, too", said one of publishers in 1921. The young male artist seemed to succeed pretty well while the company exported the products even to Scandinavia.

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The Publishing Company Kuvataide started to print paper dolls in 1920´s.
The girl below is from 1930´s.


Playing with paper dolls was very popular both in 1920´s and 1930´s but it was the war time in 1940´s that made the domestic production into full flower. It was shortage of everything , lack of all kind of materials but paper was not a problem in Finland although the quality was not as good as earlier. So more publishers interested in printing, artists needed possibilities to work and children got something to play with in hard times. You could choose little girls and boys or elegant ladies but also Indians, fairy tale -characters and animals, for example a teddy bear with different kind of uniforms.

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"Pekka" from 1940´s has a uniform of a Finnish officer.
The Publishing Company is Taidekorttikeskus Oy .
Already from the beginning of production the Finnish nationalism was to see in the outfit of paper dolls. The girls usually had Finnish folk dresses among the others and boys military uniforms. During the war in 1940´s also the girls had "Lotta" -uniform (Lotta-organisation was alike WAAC in USA). Otherwise you can notice the fashion chancing according to time.

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From the 1950´s "The Golden Age" of Finnish paper dolls was step by step going to its end mostly because of the burgeoning imports. Nowadays the domestic production is one of the museum activities - they product dolls with historical dresses from different eras. On the other side - also the children´ s activities have chanced. What used to be for playing in childhood is today often a collecting hobby of adults.

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The elegant "Ulla" was a novelty of the year 1945 by the publisher Paletti.

This article is written by Marja-Liisa Lehto MA