by Richard McKinstry
Genealogical research reveals that the ancestor of today's paper
dolls were pantins, first popular in France during the mid-1700s.
Pantins were cardboard human figures whose limbs came detached,
later to be fastened to the torso with string. Children and adults
would then make them dance or otherwise perform. Louis XV banned
them, according to his edict, because he was afraid that women,
"under the lively influence of this continual jumping, were in danger
of bringing children into the world with twisted limbs like the
pantins." In time, paper dolls developed as a way for children to
amuse themselves and for grownups to discover what the current fashion
trends were. Many were handmade; others came from commercial printers.
During America's Gilded Age, paper doll production markedly increased,
and such firms as McLoughlin Brothers, Dennison Manufacturing Company,
and F.A. Stokes Company created countless paper doll figures. In
the late twentieth century, paper dolls were customarily made to
portray public figures, especially movie and television stars and
other people in public life.