Bisque doll

Schaeffler House Doll Comes Home – Hillsboro Free Press

Sarah Tham, Mary McGinnis, Suzanne McGinn, Janet Lukehart, Louisa Schaeffler the Doll, Sue Wadkins, Donna Smoller, Deb Garver. Each of these women played a key role in the reconstruction of the 1906 doll found at the Schaeffler house. The doll has been rebuilt over the past year by the Over the Rainbow Doll Club and was presented last week.
The doll needed various repairs, from a new wig to epoxy for hairline cracks in her head and missing eyeballs.
Sue Wadkins of Hillsboro receives the newly renovated Armand Marseille Alma doll, circa 1906, from the Schaeffler household which Lawrence’s Over the Rainbow Doll Club renovated over the past year and returned last week.
Lawrence’s Over the Rainbow Doll Club found this circa 1906 Armand Marseille Alma doll and refurbished it within the last year.

Lawrence’s Janet Lukehart loves visiting small museums almost as much as she loves old dolls. So she had a huge surprise when she visited her friend, Sarah Tham, a professor at Tabor College and discovered the Schaeffler house in Hillsboro last year.

“I fell in love with this place,” she said. “It’s as if the family still lives there.

Louise Schaeffler Ebel, daughter of William and Ida Schaeffler was born in January 1900. At some point in her childhood, Louise acquired a 24-inch Bisque Armand Marseille “Alma” doll, circa 1906.

Lukehart said, “After enjoying the incredible ambiance on the first level, we headed to the turret bedroom on the second floor. On the way up, Steve (Fast) told us that the room had belonged to Miss Louise Schaeffler, the youngest child and only daughter in the family. We entered a room for a delighted and happy girl. There, on the bed, lay Louise’s childhood doll. I immediately named her Louisa in honor of her little mother, Louise Schaeffler. Louisa was neglected. My heart sank a little seeing that she had lost her eyes. It’s never good for a doll. But her sweet little face was fine. His wig looked both scary and tired. His white leather body needed strengthening and one of his arms was upside down. As I gently lifted his leg, a tiny bit, a little puff of sawdust escaped. I was concocting rescue plans before I left the Schaeffler household. Throughout the evening, Sarah and I discussed the condition of the doll, and a plan was hatched. Over the Rainbow Doll Club would help restore this doll.

Lukehart belongs to a doll club and she knew they could help. So she offered her services and it worked for them to take the doll for repair.

She explained that Marseille dolls were made from 1825 and were in production even during World War II.

“I’m sure Louise’s mom got a shipload of dolls for the store and picked one out for her daughter who would have been 6-8 at the time,” Lukehart said.

She contacted Donna Smoller, an extremely knowledgeable doll repairer in her area, and got to work.

The plan was to fully repair the doll and see her beautifully dressed and suitably decked out in period clothing.

Keith Ebel, grandson of Louise, agreed that the doll needed care and restoration. Tham of Hillsboro lovingly collected “Louisa”, named by members of the Over the Rainbow Doll Club, and delivered her to Lawrence with the help of Sue Wadkins in Hillsboro.

Wadkins, who works with Hillsboro Museums and grew up next to the Schaeffler House, said the first time her granddaughter saw the doll she said, “She looks like Chuckie’s bride.”

Smoller began working on Louisa. Her dress slip was falling apart, her legs had holes where her sawdust filling was leaking, one of her arms had been attached upside down, her wig was not attached to her head, and she had no eyeballs.

Louisa received new leather patches where there were holes. She was stuffed with sawdust to fill her legs and arm. His sad little “attached” arm is now pointing in the right direction. Sleepy eyes had to be constructed with new eyeballs, heavy wire, and fishing weight.

As requested by Smoller, his eyes will remain open as his head has been wrapped with acid-free tissue. Louisa has a new wig. Her original wig was beyond repair. Her new wig conforms to a hairstyle of her time. The hairline cracks inside his head were filled with epoxy to prevent further cracks. The “new” bloomers, slips and dresses were made from old garments with pintucks and lace. She now wears shoes that echo the styles of her original era.

The goal was achieved and on Saturday July 9 a full program took place and the doll was presented. Afterwards, Louisa was lovingly wrapped for her journey back to her place of honor, in Louise Schaeffler Ebel’s childhood bedroom.

“She’s beautiful as she sits back on Louise’s bed, where her journey to Lawrence began,” Wadkins said.