Monday, September 5, 2016

Introduction to Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black


To continue to serve those who love, make, and collect black dolls, through the written word, this blog will focus on doll makers and doll collectors.  Without those who make dolls, loving, collecting, and owning them would be impossible.  Without those who patronize those who make them, their work (the dolls) would go unnoticed.

This blog will also allow posts about the makers and collectors to stand apart from my other doll musings published on my original blog, Black Doll Collecting.  Because most will be written in magazine article form, posts will be lengthy.  To help readers with limited reading time maintain an interest, posts will be published in multiple parts, but on the same day.  Readers may choose to read one part and the others later or read all parts during one reading session by linking from one post to the next.

These articles on doll makers and collectors that could have been published in major doll publications (and died there after the issues have circulated), will have a forever place here on the Internet and can be read and found through proper Internet searches for many years to come (and as long as the Blogspot format exists). Doll makers', doll collectors', and doll lovers' voices, their shared thoughts, desires, inspirations, and intentions will live here infinitely.

I wish to thank all readers in advance who have supported me in the past.  I hope to gain the same support and more with this project.

For helping me create the name of this blog (and she will not know this until she reads the blog announcement post over at Black Doll Collecting), I wish to thank Betty Ativie.  Betty has been a devoted doll friend, supporter, and reader of my work for the past several years.   Thank you, Betty!  I truly appreciate you and the encouragement you lend!

I hope everyone enjoys the first four-part post, which is dedicated to early American doll maker, Leo Moss, who deserves recognition for his ingenious doll making expertise.

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Through the Eyes of Leo Moss: His Story, His Dolls - Part 1 of 4



Several dolls are attributed to early American doll maker, Leo Moss.  Hand crafted during the period referred to as the Emergence of Modern America, from 1890-1930, and at least two years beyond, some Moss dolls purportedly migrated to Europe.  It was not until the early 1970s, several years after his demise, however, that Moss, described as a Macon Georgia handyman by trade, gained recognition for his dolls.  In Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820 to 1991 (BD book 1), author, and well-known black-doll historian, Myla Perkins, attributes discovery of Leo Moss dolls to one of her personal friends, Betty Formaz.  A collector herself, Formaz also restored and made dolls.   Although the manner by which Formaz became acquainted with Moss’s Georgia descendants remains a mystery, her unearthing created an eventual desire in many collectors to own Moss dolls.   

As the discovery is documented in BD book 1, Moss’s daughter, Ruby, and a granddaughter, Helen, were in possession of his dolls during the 1970s when Ms. Formaz visited their home and purchased over 30 Moss dolls.  That acquisition brought the dolls to the attention of the doll-collecting community.   Moss dolls gained national exposure after Perkins entered one of her Moss dolls in the 1973 United Federation of Doll Clubs 24th Annual Exhibit at Louisville, Kentucky.   Mina, Perkins reports, won a blue ribbon in the baby doll category.  During the same UFDC event, competing alongside approximately 1800 dolls, Mina won a 4th place blue ribbon!  Mina is the center doll in this Detroit Historical Society image.  The other two Moss dolls in the linked-to photo are described as a smiling lady and a little girl with a real hair wig.  

Moss dolls fall into several categories.  These include early American character dolls, papier-mâché, folk, and one-of-a-kind artist.  The dolls have papier-mâché character heads.  Other common characteristics include bodies which are usually cloth, natural-textured hair, and inset glass eyes. Mohair or human hair was used for some dolls.  Sizes vary with dolls said to have been created in the likeness of family and friends and other people Leo Moss knew.  Moss dolls typically depict infants, toddlers, young children, and adults.  Smiling, stoic, and even sad expressions are found on the faces of Moss dolls.  A recognizable feature of many of his child dolls is the occasional signature teardrop or two on their cheeks.  Moss dolls can be either unmarked or marked “L.M.”  An inscription of the person’s name after whom the doll was sculpted and the year made is usually located on the cloth body.  Other Moss dolls have their names incised into the shoulder plate.
Leo Moss self-portrait doll

In the February/March 1985 issue of Doll Reader magazine, an invaluable doll described as a self-portrait of Leo Moss is featured in an advertisement on page 29.  The ad was placed by The Country Bumpkin Doll Shop announcing their March 30, 1985, auction held at the Sheraton of Boca Raton, Florida.  The black and white ad image illustrates a mature male doll with balding papier-mâché head, inset eyes, closed mouth with down-turned full lips, and full molded beard.  The doll is dressed in a tuxedo with a first place ribbon from Timbertown Dollology attached to the coat.  The magazine photo caption reads:   “Very Rare – All Original ‘Mr. Leo Moss.’”  This photograph, courtesy of Dolls magazine (which merged with Doll Reader in January 2012) may be the doll community’s only image of this extraordinarily talented doll maker.   The same doll, in a color photograph from Pinterest.com pinned from the Theriault website, is the feature doll of this article. 

Well known for his black dolls, white Moss dolls have also been documented.  This is confirmed in the article, “After 10 Years Antique Doll Collection Numbers 250,” written by Reginald Stewart, published in The Dispatch, January 10, 1978.  Stewart’s article explores Myla Perkins’ antique doll collection.  In this article, Perkins shared, “Moss, it has been found, made white dolls in the image of white children in the Macon area in exchange for the materials he needed for making black dolls… His work was quite detailed and hair used on the white dolls was natural hair.  His wife would make the clothes for the dolls.”  Further documenting the existence of white Moss dolls, on page 13 of BD book 1, Perkins illustrates and describes Elaine, an 18-inch (46 cm) Caucasian doll.  According to Perkins, “Elaine was sold in 1972 by the sister of the girl the doll was made for.”  A letter written by the doll’s seller to the 1972 buyer quite eloquently describes her family’s affection for the gentle giant, Mr. Leo Moss, and his wife, Lee Ann.  The Moss couple had worked for the seller’s parents during her childhood.  In the letter, the seller describes the delight she and her two sisters experienced upon receipt of dolls for Christmas, 1909, made in their likeness by Mr. Moss.  According to the letter, Moss’s wife made the dolls’ clothing that matched dresses she made for the girls. 

In Mr. Stewart’s article, Perkins describes Moss’s papier-mâché process, as the use of “scrap wallpaper… picked up from his odd jobs,” such as those he performed when working for the above mentioned family in 1909.  Perkins continues, [Moss used] “soot from stoves and chimneys… for coloring the skin.”  While papier-mâché was used to fashion the dolls’ heads and shoulder plates, many of the bodies were reportedly purchased from a New York toy dealer, who allegedly caused eventual woe for Mr. Moss. 

In BD book 1, Perkins described Moss’s life as very tragic.  His wife ran off with the toy dealer from whom he often purchased supplies, taking only the youngest of their five children with her.  Moss was left alone to raise their remaining four children.   As an expression of his sadness, legend has it that Moss began adding the signature tears to some of his dolls after his wife’s desertion.   However, Perkins attributes the tears to those shed by a child when Moss sculpted its portrait.  “According to his daughter, Ruby,” Perkins writes, “when he was making the doll face of one of the toddlers in the family, the child became impatient while sitting and began to cry…  Moss tried to get the child to stop crying without success.  Finally he said, ‘if that’s how you want to look, that’s how I’ll make your doll.’ …  Afterwards, whenever a child cried when Mr. Moss was making a portrait doll, the doll then also had tears.” 

(Continue reading here.)

Through the Eyes of Leo Moss: His Story, His Dolls Part 2 of 4

Value of Leo Moss Dolls
In today’s market, with or without tears, Leo Moss dolls command thousands of dollars placing them beyond the grasp of many collectors.   Courtesy images, auction descriptions, and realized prices of past Leo Moss auctions shared by Florence Theriault of Theriault’s Antique Doll Auctions and Dan Morphy of Dan Morphy Auctions, LLC, endorse the recent market value of Moss dolls.  (Note that these auctioneers use the variant spelling, paper mache, in their descriptions.)

On July 9, 2006, the following tearful Moss character doll sold in a Theriault’s auction for $9,500.00. 
Crying black child doll by Leo Moss, sold on July 9, 2006, in a Theriault's auction.
Paper Mache Black Folk Doll
17" (43 cm) Hand-sculpted paper mache head portraying a young crying black child, with rich dark brown complexion, sculpted fleecy hair, brown glass inset eyes, sculpted detail of slanted brows, downcast lips in fretful expression, sculpted tears, brown muslin body, brown composition lower limbs, muslin baby gown. Condition: generally excellent.  Marks:  L.M. (impressed at back neck), Mabel Lincoln 1922 (muslin label with hand-lettered words on front torso).  Comments:  circa 1920s, the doll is attributed to Georgian folk artist Leo Moss who, according to semi-documented legends, is reported to have worked during this time creating portrait characterization dolls of his family and friends; the child with sculpted tears is among his most notable pieces. Value Points:  wonderfully sculpted doll with superb detail of hair and facial features perfectly preserved.

In the same July 9, 2006, Theriault’s auction, another doll attributed to Leo Moss sold for $2,400.00. 
Circa 1920 mature doll attributed to Leo Moss, sold on July 9, 2006, in a Theriault's auction.
Brown-Complexioned Paper Mache Doll with Sculpted Hat, Possibly Leo Moss
15" (38 cm) Brown paper mache socket head with hand-pressed sculpted detail, amber brown complexion, black tightly curled hair under sculpted red-ribbed stocking cap with turned up edge, amber brown glass inset eyes, sculpted brows, nose, closed mouth with shaded and outlined lips, composition and wooden ball-jointed body, nicely costumed in red cotton dress, undergarments.  Condition:  generally excellent.  Comments:  circa 1920, possibly the work of American folk artist Leo Moss…  Value Points:  despite its mystery origin, the doll has a compelling facial sculpture, unusual sculpted hat and hair, and fine patina.

On January 5, 2008, a fine example of a Leo Moss doll realized a price of $8,000.00 in a Theriault’s auction.
Another teary-eyed Moss doll, circa 1901
Very Rare American Paper Mache Black Character Child Attributed to Leo Moss
 17" (43 cm) Hand-pressed paper mache head with flanged neck, rich black complexion and hair, sculpted very tight short curly hair with details of curls tumbling onto the forehead, sculpted angled black brows, heavily lidded inset brown eyes with black eyeliner, broad rounded nose, closed mouth with full pouting downcast lips, very plump cheeks, three modeled tears on cheeks as though falling from eyes, brown muslin torso and upper legs, composition lower limbs, wearing white cotton dress, undergarments, shoes, stockings.  Condition:   generally excellent.   Marks: 1901 LM. Comments:  attributed to Leo Moss, circa [1901.  The] itinerant black carpenter of Georgia is believed to have created a small number of one-of-a-kind dolls depicting children of his small town world; his materials were those [found-on-hand,] for example the left-over scraps of wall paper from his day job.  The tearful faced children were signature to his style, and each was created uniquely.  Value Points:  rare American doll with outstanding sculpting and portraiture, enhanced by the mysterious background of the artist, superb state of preservation.

The following Leo Moss doll was offered in a Morphy auction on October 23, 2010.  The estimated value was between $4,000.00 and $6,500.00.

Rex by Leo Moss, circa 1912

Rare & Desirable Black Character Doll by Leo Moss
This doll has a socket head incised L.M. with molded black curly hair, inset glass eyes, pouty mouth and crying expression with two tears.  Leo Moss dolls with tears are particularly desirable, as it is said that these were made to express his sadness after his wife left him.  [Doll has] cloth body with composition arms and legs with label sewn on chest, “Rex 1912.” Very cute sailor suit looks original, stockings and antique shoes.  Usually dolls were named after the person they were made for.  This doll was from the collection of Lenon Hoyt [sic]* and was displayed in her “Aunt Len’s Doll Museum” in New York City, and sold at Sotheby’s in 1994… Condition:  excellent.  Size 17" T.

The above described doll, Rex, sold for $10,350.00 in the October 23, 2010, Morphy auction.  *Hoyte is the correct spelling of the previous owner’s surname.  Interestingly, the same doll is included as item 332 in the 1994 Sotheby’s auction catalog, The Collection of Lenon Holder Hoyte Exhibited as “Aunt Len’s Doll and Toy Museum.”  In the Sotheby’s catalog, the doll’s description follows the following catalog image.  

Iem 332 in the 1994 Sotheby’s auction catalog
So-called ‘Leo Moss’ Composition Head Black Doll, modern, L.M. scratched into back of head, character face with fixed brown glass eyes, downturned mouth, knitted brows, tears falling from eyes, fabric body with composition lower arms, wearing white cotton shirt with sailor collar, matching pants, socks and blue oilcloth shoes.  Height 18 in (45.7cm) $400-600

Known as “Rex” in the Morphy auction, the Sotheby’s description does not include the doll’s name.  It also questionably categorizes the doll as modern.  In addition to “Rex,” Ms. Hoyte’s online biography documents her ownership of at least two other dolls attributed to Leo Moss.  “After 40 years as an art and special education teacher in New York City public schools, Lenon Hoyte—commonly known as Aunt Len—founded Aunt Len's Doll and Toy Museum in her Harlem home…  Hoyte's collection included extremely rare black dolls from the nineteenth century.  Among them were rag dolls made by slaves from scraps of fabric, muslin, and feed bags.  A pair of [paper mache] dolls named Lillian and Leo had been made by Leo Moss, a nineteenth-century black handyman from Atlanta.   Lillian and Leo had tears running down their cheeks.”

In a November 19, 2011, Theriault’s auction, the following doll is described with a realized price of $2,500.00.
Circa 1920 Leo Moss character baby sold in a Theriaut's auction on November 19, 2011.
American Hand-Sculpted Papier-Mache Black Character Baby, Possibly by Leo Moss
26" (66 cm) Hand-sculpted papier-mache of plump-faced child with rich dark brown complexion, deeply-set eye sockets with red lower edging, brown glass inset eyes, black [painted] brows and upper eyeliner, broad nose with upturned tip, very full lips of closed mouth, sculpted ears, black mohair wig over solid dome pate, stiffened brown muslin body with brown-painted composition lower arms and legs, wearing antique cotton pinafore dress, blouse, homespun cape with green soutache [trimmed] undergarments.  Condition:  generally excellent.  Comments: American, circa 1920, possibly Leo Moss of Macon, Georgia… Value Points:  wonderful and extremely rare American folk doll, with well-detailed characterization, original finish, in rare larger size; few examples of the Leo Moss dolls are known to exist.

An additional Moss doll offered between January 11 and 13, 2013, by Theriault’s realized a price of $7,500.00.
Portrait doll of Violet Mae Collins 6-12-1922 by Leo Moss

Very Rare American Paper Mache Black Character Doll… 26" (66 cm)  
Hand-pressed paper mache head with flanged neck, rich black complexion, sculpted black hair in very tight curls, sculpted angled black brows, heavily lidded inset brown eyes with black eyeliner, broad rounded nose, closed mouth with very full downcast lips in wistful expression, very plump cheeks, three modeled tears on cheeks, brown muslin torso and upper legs, composition lower limbs, wearing white cotton dress and sweater, undergarments, shoes, striped stockings. Condition:  generally excellent. Marks:  L.M. (head) Violet Mae Collins 6-12-1922 (hand lettered on torso).  Comments:  attributed to Leo Moss, circa 1920…  Value Points:  rare American doll with outstanding sculpting and portraiture, enhanced by the mysterious background of the artist, superb state of preservation.


Acquisition of a doll made by the gifted hands of the clever man who used found objects and existing doll parts to create dolls, would certainly fulfill many collectors’ most imaginative dreams accompanied by enduring euphoria and possibly tears of joy.  While many doll collectors aspire to own an authentic Leo Moss doll, this can be quite cost prohibitive for most, as illustrated by the realized prices of recent Moss doll auctions.  For some, the next best thing to owning an original is acquiring one of the existing Moss doll replicas.  

(Continue reading here.)

Through the Eyes of Leo Moss: His Story, His Dolls Part 3 of 4

Moss Doll Replicas
Many Moss replicas are so well done they can both satisfy a collector’s desire to own an original at a fraction of the cost as well as possibly mislead one to believe the reproduced version is authentic if not properly labeled a replica.  There are two known artists who made fine examples of Moss-type dolls and sold them as reproductions.  The late, Betty Formaz, the woman who introduced Moss dolls to the doll community, identified her circa 1970s through 1990s dolls as her Moss-type creations.  During the 1990s, Rubin Quintano, a quite capable doll artist, also made Moss-type replicas that bear his signature.   
30-inch Moss look-a-like by Betty Formaz
A 30-inch (76 cm) doll, which looks more male than female, made by Betty Formaz, has a composition-over-vinyl head with sculpted, tightly coiled, black hair; brown inset eyes, brown cloth body, and brown-painted vinyl arms and rigid-vinyl legs.  The doll arrived to its current owner dressed as a girl by its former owner or by Formaz, herself.  It is now dressed in unisex attire.  B-4MAZ in gold paint is written on the doll’s neck.  An index card that accompanied the doll to its new owner reads:  Baby large (pink print dress); one of a kind B. Formaz, 6/30/94; 5147, 400.00.  
Close-up of 30-inch Formaz Moss look-a-like
It appears Formaz used a circa 1970s manufactured white doll to create this Moss look-a-like whose papier-mâché face is sculpted over the doll’s existing head.    

16-inch Leo Moss type by Betty Formaz
A 16-inch (41 cm) doll by Betty Formaz, whose gender is also ambiguous, from the collection of Yvonne Peters, was made similar to the 30-inch doll described previously.  This baby has composition-over-vinyl head with similarly sculpted black coils for hair.  The eyes, which were probably originally brown, have changed to a purplish color, a flaw that often occurs with acrylic eyes used in some artist dolls made during the 1980s and 1990s.  The vinyl arms are brown as is the firmly packed fabric body.  The baby wears a well-made tan romper with antique lace at bodice and button flap opening in back with gathered fabric at the belted waist.  Displayed in a basket lined with a sage green floral print quilt with the same fabric wrapped around the handle of the basket, the baby’s neck is marked 4MAZ in gold. 

15-inch Leo Moss-inspired baby by Betty Formaz
A 15-inch (38 cm) Leo Moss-inspired character baby by Betty Formaz has porcelain head and hands; dark brown, almost black stockinette body, upper arms, legs, and feet; brown inset eyes and teardrops on cheeks.   

In addition to its acrylic tears, frowning eyebrows further illustrate this baby’s displeasure.  The open/closed mouth exposes a molded tongue.  The baby has black hair of short, tight curls, the top-center of which falls into a Widow’s peak.  Its outfit consists of a hand-sewn pink and white gingham dress, matching bonnet with ruffled trim and floral appliqué, and matching undergarment.  White socks and pink felt Mary Jane shoes with black soles cover the feet.  On the neck, the baby is signed B. Formaz in gold paint. 

A doll with similar features as the above-described baby by Formaz appears on page 386 of Perkins’ Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide Book II (BD book 2).  This circa late-1980s to early-1990s porcelain and cloth Moss-inspired doll by Formaz is larger at 20 inches (50 cm).  Other Formaz-made Moss-type dolls are also described on pages 386 and 387 of this publication.  They are:  Myla, a 20-inch (50 cm) papier-mâché and cloth doll; a 28-inch (71 cm) unnamed girl of papier-mâché and cloth; and Edgar, a 28-inch (71 cm) papier-mâché, composition, and cloth doll named for Perkins’ husband.  Illustrated and described in Perkins’ BD book 1 on page 315 are two porcelain and cloth crying children.  Except for their gender and clothing, Ruby and Leo, by Formaz, appear identical and stand 18-1/2 inches (47 cm) tall. 

Formaz used a variety of marks for her dolls.   4MAZ, B-4MAZ, B. Formaz, Betty Formaz, by Betty Formaz are documented as Formaz marks.  Rubin Quintano’s known doll marks were his initials, R.Q. possibly preceded and followed by numbers on the nape of his dolls’ necks.  The latter number perhaps indicates the year the doll was made.  It is uncertain what the preceding number represents. 

Cecily is a 22-inch Moss-type doll by Rubin Quintano, circa 1992.
Cecily by Quintano, measured by her present owner, is a 22-inch (55 cm) Leo Moss-type doll made of papier-mâché over composition with black cloth body.  


Cecily in a close-up photo
The frowning eyebrows and molded tears depict Cecily’s unhappy disposition.  The doll has large brown inset eyes and short black hair with molded curls.  Cecily wears a light blue tea-stained dress, white pantaloons, white socks, and light blue shoes.  Pinned to the front of the dress is a tag with “Cecily R.Q.” handwritten on it.  In red paint on the nape of the neck, Cecily is marked:  204-R.Q. 92.     According to the former owner, Phyllis Schlatter, Cecily was purchased at a UFDC Convention in Indianapolis in 1992.  (This might have been a regional event).  Cecily is also featured in BD book 2, page 417, wherein Phyllis provides for Perkins a description of Quintano’s doll-making process.  Stripping the paint from composition dolls, repainting them and remolding the head with Moss doll characteristics resulted in his nice Moss doll replicas.  According to Schlatter, Quintano added new inset eyes and new bodies.   Note that in BD book 2, Cecily’s name is spelled “Cicely” and her height is recorded as 23 inches (58 cm).

14-1/2-inch Moss-type doll by R. Quintano from the collection of Vicky Forbes

Another example of a Quintano Moss look-a-like is from the collection of Vicky Forbes.  This baby, with sad expression, is without tears, stands 14-1/2-inches (37 cm) tall, and has a composition-type head connected to a shoulder plate of the same material.

Like Quintano’s Cecily, Forbes’ doll has molded hair of short, curly texture, and inset eyes.  The fabric body is firmly stuffed.   This unnamed baby is dressed in a red and white large check dress which is believed to be original.  The neck is marked R.Q. in red paint.  Forbes purchased her Moss-type at an auction during the 1990s.

(Continue reading here.)

Through the Eyes of Leo Moss: His Story, His Dolls Part 4 of 4

His Story, His Dolls

Resourceful talent, courage, single parenthood, and an apparent caring nature are adjectives that might easily describe the man behind the original Leo Moss dolls.  His dolls became an inspiration for Formaz and Quintano, who replicated his work.   Through his gifted hands, the collecting community inherited black dolls handcrafted in America decades before most doll makers began creating respectful representations of black people.  Through the eyes of Leo Moss, three-dimensional, one-of-a-kind, historically significant, ethnically correct, invaluable, American-made works of doll art remain.  Through his vision exists black dolls with perfectly proportioned eyes, noses, and mouths, dolls with thick textured hair that adequately reflect the children and adults who inspired their creation.  Other black dolls made during the time Moss created dolls were brown versions of their white counterparts, brown or black caricatures with grossly exaggerated facial features, and those made in Europe with features that clearly distinguish them from white dolls except for the use of unrealistic, straight-hair wigs.  In essence, in doll form, Moss singlehandedly and accurately captured the facial bone structure, skin tone, and hair texture of people who looked like him. 

Mystique, however, surrounds their introduction to the doll community some forty years after Moss made his last known doll in the early 1930s, which is said to have been a portrait doll of one of his granddaughters.  (How did Formaz become acquainted with the Moss familyWere some of her dolls created from molds of Moss dolls?  What inspired Quintano to make Moss doll replicas?)  These questions, among others, regarding Leo Moss and his dolls remain unanswered as efforts to gain additional information from reliable sources were either impossible or unsuccessful. 

What has been documented is Mr. Moss, a black man, made dolls in the Macon, Georgia area for some 40 years while modern America emerged from the industrial era.  With this being so, Moss made dolls during the American presidential terms of Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.  It is also factual that dolls attributed to Leo Moss have sold for thousands in today’s market; decent replicas exist; and he is celebrated today for his contributions to the doll world.  

It is also known that, while America progressed from industrialization to modernization, life for most American blacks and for women and children of any color was not equal to that of white males of any political or socioeconomic status during 1890 through 1930.  Child labor existed in America; women had few rights, and blacks had even fewer.   Certainly any creativity these oppressed groups possessed during these times served as an escape from the harsh reality of their limited access to civil rights and wealth.   Their resourcefulness and use of on-hand materials was often a must to survive.   During this period, Mr. Moss realized the need for black dolls as adequate representations of black people and utilized his untrained artistic ability to fashion them from scraps, soot, and doll parts. 

In his lifetime, Mr. Moss unfortunately never realized the true value and appreciation of his dolls.   In fact, in recent years, in small segments of the doll community, questions regarding the authenticity of his dolls and questions regarding his actual existence have been raised by skeptics!   (Was there actually a Leo Moss who made dolls during the late-1800s through 1930s, or was his existence fabricated for ill-gotten gains?
This teary-eyed Leo Moss character doll sold at auction in July 2015 for 17,000!

As documented in BD book 1, Leo Moss was a real person who died a pauper in 1936 and was buried in an unmarked grave.  As noted, descendants or others who knew him were unreachable at the time of this article to verify this documentation.   Therefore, his dolls and the amounts they continue to command at auction will have to stand as proof.

While owning Moss dolls can certainly generate immeasurable exuberance, in spite of any skepticism from nonbelievers, Mr. Moss’s personal losses and heartbreaking end-of-life circumstances can surely stimulate empathy from those who do believe.   Moss devotees view the new shroud of mystery surrounding the questions of his existence and the authenticity of his originals as unfounded speculation that does not tarnish his legacy or decrease the value of his dolls.  This is his story.  These are his dolls.

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On  June 8, 2014, Dr. Steve Eilenberg, a diagnostic radiologist, who has studied nonbiological artifacts with x-ray and CT scanning, documented in a blog post, the results of x-ray and CT scan imaging of three Leo Moss dolls.  The dolls were on loan at the time to the Mingei International Museum in California as part of their exhibition, Black Dolls from the Collection of Deborah Neff.  The intriguing results of Dr. Eilenberg's imaging investigation of Leo Moss dolls and his commentary can be read and viewed here.
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The largest collection of Leo Moss dolls ever assembled will be included in the I See Me:  Reflections of Black Dolls exhibition at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan from September 20, 2016 through April 30, 2017.  Leo Moss enthusiasts will be fascinated not only by viewing but by being in the presence of his original dolls.

References
Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820 – 1991 by Myla Perkins
Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide Book II by Myla Perkins
Doll Reader February/March 1985, page 29, photo of Moss self-portrait doll, courtesy of Dolls magazine
America in the 20th Century: The Progressive Era
Dan Morphy Auctions, LLC (October 23, 2010):  http://www.auctionflex.com/showlot.ap?co=31120&weiid=5126703
The Collection of Lenon Holder Hoyte Exhibited as “Aunt Len’s Doll and Toy Museum” (Sotheby’s 1994 catalog)
Theriault’s Antique Doll Auctions (July 9, 2006):   https://www.theriaults.com/sites/default/files/lot_images/cat-1066_114_0.jpg