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Artwork by Skookum

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About the Artist

"Mary McAboy of Missoula, Montana designed and produced her first Skookum doll in 1913 based on an Indian custom of using a stick figure, mannikin doll to assist a medicine man in her care, beseeching the child's higher spirit to return to the body, so that the fever would drop and the healing could occur. Her mother's dolls used dried apple heads, a format which Mary borrowed initially. She reportedly used the facial features of Native American men and women in the design of these faces. In 1919 Mary received a patent for the name Skookum. Thousands of these dolls were produced by the H.H. Tammen and Arrow Novelty Companies in their Denver and Los Angeles plants between 1915 until 1950. Apple and composition heads were replaced by heads made of plastic. Horsehair was used for the wigs and real Indian blanket pieces were used as clothing. Arms were indicated by the manner in which the blanket was folded across the front. The earliest dolls wore moccasins of leather. These later were replaced by moccasins made of felt or heavy paper. Dolls produced in the 1940's wore moccasins of rust-colored hard plastic. The two most outstanding features of the Skookum are the high cheek bones and the eyes glancing to the right. Looking right is believed to signify taking a right-leading path that indicated good health and life. Only a few dolls are looking straight forward or glancing to the left." Excerpted from a history found on the Vigo County Historical Society's website