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~ Peggy Nisbet ~
Creator of Commemorative & Historical Dolls
by Dolores Hurtt

 

Peggy Nisbet wanted to commemorate the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. There were no national or historical dolls on the English market at that time. Peggy had always loved costume design, English history and the royal family. She wanted to make a doll in the Queens likeness. Permission had to be given by Lord Chamberlain to make an image of any member of the royal family. It took many letters, visits and illustrations to earn the right to make the dolls.

Upon receiving the permission, she hired a local potter to make a 7 1/2 inch china doll to her specifications. She designed an elaborate costume. Depending entirely on home sewers, she completed 300 of these dolls and marketed them through Herrod’s Department store. With the success of that project, she was determined to build a doll business that would thrive and be loved by all.

She called her company "The House of Nisbet" and, from the start, it was a family affair. Mr. Nisbet, an accountant, had a great deal of interest in the business and advised his wife on the running of a company. They had two children, a son, Peter and daughter, Allison. They were also always involved in the company and on the Board of Directors. The business started small and grew, mainly by word of mouth. They did little advertising, but the beauty and uniqueness of the dolls sold them. Interest spread around England and to other countries. Peggy did all the designing, selected the materials, and had the final approval before the dolls were shipped. The dolls were packaged in lovely red boxes and were attractive when displayed and shipped around the world.

She sculpted the models and made the molds. The dolls were sculpted to look like real people. The bodies were similar, but the faces were detailed and realistic. There were some made in the one inch scale, but most were a little larger. They are often displayed in room settings, designed for the time period the doll represented.


Peggy Nisbet Doll

Mrs. Peggy Nisbet Doll
Silver Anniversary ~ Self Portrait
1978 Limited Edition
 

Many of the dolls were of English royalty and she also made some of royalty from other countries. She created different series such as "American Presidents", "Great Leaders" and "Film Stars". Danny Kaye was chosen as a "Film Star" doll, because of his special work with children.

Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philips - Coronation of Queen Elizabeth
Prince Philip & Queen Elizabeth II Dolls
Commemorating the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

A fire broke out in the business in May 1970 and completely gutted the building. Everything was lost, dolls, costumes and design books. Peggy had a lifetime of books she had acquired over the years, and to her, that was the greatest loss of all. Mrs. Nisbet was always very determined and moved ahead, despite hard times, both personal and professional. Both of her children married and each had three children. They remained involved with the company.

Her son-in-law, Jack Wilson, became a part of the company. He and his wife, Allison, took a display of "Tower Treasures", limited edition bisque dolls, to the American Toy Fair in 1979. Allison also created a line of children’s clothes in material printed with scenes of Beatrix Potter illustrations.

They had a line of teddy bears with a tag attached bearing a photograph of their son, William Wilson.Peggy made a self-portrait doll to celebrate her twenty fifth anniversary of doll making. It is a lovely lady in a long cape with tiny glasses. Peggy was a very attractive lady, even in her older years, with silver grey hair and blue eyes. She was tall and stately, dressing in tailored woolen clothes. People who met her said she was very English, with a lovely accent.

Her factory was said to be an impressive building, where she employed local artists, seamstresses and assemblers. Some employees worked from their own homes. She also made an effort to employ handicapped people, whenever possible. Many of her employees stayed with her from the very start and their great pride and love for the work was always evident.

Her dolls are lovely and colorful, making a beautiful display in any cabinet. They certainly make an impression and are not forgotten, after seeing them. The display of King Henry, and his 6 wives, captures everyone’s interest. King Tut is very ornate. The dolls range from common people to Royals and each has its own charm. Anyone owning one or more dolls would display them with pride.

Princess Beatrix
Princess Beatrix Doll
1857 - 1944





Citations:

Peggy Nisbet Dolls ~ A Collector's Guide, © C&DP 2013
Peggy Nisbet Dolls, a collector's guide

Historical Doll ~ The English Court, Tudors, 1/9/2007
The English Court ~ the Tudors

Queen Doll Finds Maker First Success, Bernice McShane, 10/15/1985
Queen Doll Finds Maker First Success




 

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Theresa's Dolls & Gifts Pearl Bullet 5908 Eastside Highway, Florence, Montana 59833
(406) 273-6332 Pearl Bullet mtdollhouse@aol.com