Dana Margaret Williams, 2 Aug 1901, probably in Waverly, Kansas.

Identifying Dana & her China Doll

Karen Steely Children, Iowa, Kansas Leave a Comment

Purchased several years apart from different sellers on eBay, these two photographs give no indication of the photographer name or location. However, the staging and lighting strongly suggest they were taken by a professional photographer. The tea party setting, with its crisp linen tablecloth, silver teapot and bone china cups and saucers, is unusual. That the little girl is smiling in one of the photographs is downright rare.

Photo Dating Research

Two photographs of Dana Margaret Williams

The crisp detail and olive-black tones of these images indicate they are matte collodion prints. These prints, with their wide range of black and white tones, first appeared in the mid-1890s.1 The size of this photograph provides additional evidence for a late 1890s or early 1900s date. These cards are larger than the cabinet cards that were popular in the 1880s and 1890s and at 5×7 inches are one of several alternate-size card photographs that first appear in the mid- to late-1890s.2

Identifying Dana and her Doll

The distinctive hairstyle of Dana’s china doll identifies it as a “low-brow” china, and dolls with this hairstyle first appeared in the 1890s.3 Manufactured by C.F. Kling & Co., this one is model no. 220, a common doll that would have been readily affordable by a middle-class family.4 German low-brow china dolls were exported in large numbers and remained popular until World War I, when many of the German doll factories drastically curtailed production or shut down altogether. The doll’s blonde hair provides evidence that this particular Kling 220 doll was manufactured after 1900 because prior to 1900, nearly all china dolls had black hair.5

Analysis of the photograph’s size and print type, combined with identification of the doll, establish an earliest-possible date of the mid-1890s for the photograph. The young girl’s dress, which is made of white cotton batiste with an open-neck yoke, bishop sleeves and an embroidered and perforated bertha collar, helps to provide a book end for the date range. This silhouette appeared at the end of the 1890s, was popular between 1900 and 1905, and would have been noticeably out of style by 1910.6

The original photo purchased on eBay is only inscribed with the name “Dana Williams” on the back. The second photo, purchased several years later, is inscribed “Dana Margaret Williams” on the back and underneath the name is written “4 yr 7 mth 18 day old.” The addition of her age also provides evidence that Dana Williams is the subject of the photo.7

Two photographs of Dana Margaret Williams taking tea with her Kling china doll at the age of 4 years, 7 months and 18 days. The photographs are matte collodion prints on 5 x 7 inch dark green cards. The photographer and location are unknown. Click on an image to start slideshow.

Which Dana Williams is She?

Dana Margaret Williams circa 1901 and 1950
A search of the 1900 and 1910 U.S. censuses for children named Dana Williams turns up several children with that name, but only one with the middle initial of “M.” Born on 15 December 1896, Dana M. Williams would have been 4 years, 7 months and 18 days old on 2 August 1901, providing a possible date for these photos consistent with the date range identified above.8 This Dana M. Williams was born 15 December 1896 in Percival, Fremont, Iowa, and died 19 January 1977, probably in Ontario, San Bernardino, California.9
This Dana M. Williams is also included in an Ancestry.com Member Family Tree, which states her full name as Dana Margaret Williams, but provides no source for her middle name. This Member Family Tree includes photographs of Dana M. Williams, and one those photos is included here.10

The marked resemblance between the adult Dana M. Williams and the young Dana Margaret Williams in the eBay photographs provides additional support for the conclusion that they are probably the same person. This means the photographs were most likely taken in Fremont County, Iowa or Coffey County, Kansas, based on evidence that shows Dana Williams and her family moved from Iowa to Kansas between 1900 and 1905.11


Other Photographs


  1. Gary W. Clark, 19th Century Card Photos KwikGuide: A Step-by-Step Guide to Identifying and Dating (Carlsbad, Calif.: PhotoTree.com, 2013), 46-47. Gelatin and collodion silver prints, which can be identified by their reddish-brown tones, were first introduced in the 1880s and had largely taken over the market by the mid-1890s. They replaced the earlier albumen prints, which had comparatively little detail and yellowed over time. In the mid-1890s, the gelatin and collodion silver prints would themselves be replaced by matte collodion prints, which had a truer range of black and white hues and would remain the primary prints used by photographers until the 1950s.
  2. Clark, 19th Century Card Photos KwikGuide, 72. 5 x 7 inch photographs were one of a range of newly-available sizes found in the 1898 E. and H. T. Anthony Co., Illustrated Catalog of Photographic Equipment and Materials.
  3. Mary Gorham Krombholz and Cynthia Erfurt Musser, The Story of German Doll Making, 1530-2000 (Grantsville, Md.: Hobby House Press, Inc., 2001), 155. On the top left of page is a china doll with the “low-brow” hairstyle, which Kling began manufacturing in the 1890s.
  4. Mary Gorham Krombholz, 500 Years of German Doll Making (Cincinnati, Ohio: Krehbiel Print Possibilities, 2013), 513. Two photos at the top of the page show black-haired versions of this doll and identify it as model number 220 from the C.F. Kling & Co. porcelain factory in Ohrdruf, a small town in the district of Gotha in the German state of Thuringia. Nearly all china dolls were made in Germany during this period. Krombholz, The Story of German Doll Making, 93. A comparable 12.5” low-brow china produced by the Hertwig porcelain factory was offered as late as 1931 for $2.00.
  5. Lydia Richter, China, Parian & Bisque German Dolls (Grantsville, Md.: Hobby House Press, Inc., 1993), 146. “Blonde china dolls made before 1880 are rare. Many are found that date after 1900.”
  6. JoAnne Olian, Children’s Fashions 1860-1912: 1,065 Costume Designs from “La Mode Illustrée” (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1994), 81 and 89. Embroidered and perforated cotton batiste is referred to as eyelet, and examples of children’s eyelet dresses similar to Miss Williams’ dress are shown in image “c,” dated 1898, on p. 81 and in images “b” & “c,” dated 1901, on the bottom half of p. 89. Also see Kristina Harris, The Child in Fashion: 1750-1920, (Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1999), 106, 118-119, for examples of girls’ dresses from the late 1890s and early 1900s with bertha collars and bishop sleeves.
  7. Names on the back of photographs are sometimes the name of the photo’s owner, rather than the subject.
  8. 1900 U.S. census, Benton Township, Fremont County, Iowa, population schedule, p. 159, enumeration district (ED) 53, sheet 1-A, household 2, Dellors Williams, Jr.; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2015); citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 433.
  9. Social Security Administration, “United States Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014,”database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 January 2016), entry for Dana Newton, SS no. 552-01-0172.
  10. “Public Member Trees,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 December 2015), “Arrasmith” family tree submitted by Member Name “jimd1432,” profile for Dana M. (Williams) Newton (1896-1977), photograph uploaded 13 January 2014.
  11. Social Security Administration, “United States Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014,”database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 12 January 2016), entry for Richard Williams, SS no. 340-18-5091. Gives his birthdate as 31 January 1902. Kansas Historical Society, “Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925,”1905, Coffey County, population schedule, Waverly P. O., p. 11, dwelling 3, family 2, for D. Williams household; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2015). 1910 U.S. census, Rock Creek, Coffey County, Kansas, population schedule, p. 159, enumeration district (ED) 53, sheet 1-A, household 2, Dellors Williams, Jr.; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2015); citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 435. Both censuses show Richard Clarence Williams born in Kansas. So although the 1900 U.S. census places Dana M. Williams and her family in Percival, Fremont County, Iowa, in 1900, her brother Richard’s birth place and the 1905 Kansas State census suggests that the family was living in Coffey County, Kansas by 1902.

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