Maybe because it's Halloween, but these dolls have a zombie-like appearance, don't they? (Or is it just me watching too many episodes of the "Walking Dead"?)
The dolls are actually beautiful one-of-a-kind figures, hand-carved by artists living in adult shelters in Minnesota during the 1930s. They were collected by public health nurse Bertha Bruschweiler, who lived in Edina at the time.
Bruschweiler provided some of the fabric for the artists to create detailed ethnic costumes. This Dutch boy (below) carries water buckets and has wooden shoes. Other costumes have canes, unique hats, detailed leather shoes and embroidery.
According to paperwork provided by the donor, the artists visited libraries to study the facial features and dress of ethnic groups and then created dolls representing Spain, Russia or a Slavic country, Sweden or a Scandinavian country, Germany and Holland.
The 10 dolls came to us via a circuitous route. Bruschweiler retired and lived in Lake Wales, Florida, in the 1960s.She gave the collection to her neighbor, Mrs. Sam Turner, who in turn donated the collection to the Lake Wales Public Library where it was displayed for several years. As the library recently reassessed its collection, staff decided that the dolls don't represent Lake Wales and asked if we would be interested.
Believe it or not, it was a tough call. Our mission is to collect, preserve and tell the history of Edina, Minnesota. Do these dolls fulfill that mission? Normally, we wouldn't take just any collection just because it was owned by an Edina resident. Our storage space would be overflowing if we did that.
But these were acquired by an Edina woman, who worked directly with the artists in her capacity as a public health nurse. She helped create them by providing materials. They were created by local artists, if not from Edina then from the Minneapolis area.
And it doesn't hurt that the dolls have high display value.
I'm still researching where Bertha Bruschweiler may have worked in the 1930s. I can tell from online research that she worked for Minneapolis Vocational School, from an online 1953 yearbook:
"The average student at Vocational does not realize how much he is tied up with the office staff. All program and attendance cards, as well as re- quests tor excuses, records, bulletins, and announcements, go through the capable hands of the well- trained force in Vocational office. Vocational's school nurse is a very busy person. Not only is Bertha Bruschweiler on call tor First Aid assistance throughout the day, she must arrange tor physicals for new students. assist the doctor who comes every three weeks and take care of clinic, doctor and dental appointments. Mrs. Bruschweiler checks in students who have been absent because of illness. She often winds up a busy day by making necessary home calls..."
What do you think? Do these dolls belong in the Edina Historical Society collection? Do you know anything about Bertha Bruschweiler or her husband William? What "handicapped workshop" may have had artists working on woodcarving in the 1930s?
As always, I'd love to hear from you. Share your thoughts by commenting here or emailing me.
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