Sculptor Grace Storey Putnam is one of the most well-known doll designers of all time.
Born in San Diego, CA on March 16, 1877, Grace Storey wanted to become an artist since the age of eight. She was a student in the art school in San Diego run by Maud McMullan when she met sculptor Arthur Putnam. They were married in 1899 and moved to San Francisco where her husband pursued an art career while Grace raised the couple’s children. After their divorce in 1915, she gave painting and drawing lessons and began sculpting dolls to support her family.
In 1920 Putnam visited a Salvation Army day nursery in Los Angeles where she studied a 3-day old sleeping girl. Using clay she quickly worked at the baby’s side to sculpt its likeness. Putnam often remarked that she wanted the doll to be as lifelike as possible, unlike “prettier” dolls of the day. The doll was a huge success, and was distributed by the New York firm, George Borgfeldt and Company, distributors of Rose O’Neill’s Kewpies and other well-known American dolls.
Grace married sculptor Eugene Morahan in 1927 in New York; they were divorced in 1941. Her last years were spent in Malibu, CA; she died there on Feb. 26, 1947.
Pictured: 1922 wax head Bye-Lo Baby cast from Putnam’s orignial, in the Bowers Museum, Santa Ana.