Phonograph doll “Mae Starr” with phonographic cylinder

    Phonograph doll “Mae Starr” with phonographic cylinder

    USA, New-York

    Circa 1922

    Averill Manufacturing Co.

    Papier-mache, metal, fabric, hair, cardboard, celluloid; casting, sewing, embroidery, mechanical work

    70 x 36 x 16 cm, 3.4 kg

    On the cylinder: “ROCK-A-BYE BABY”


    Talking doll - an anthropomorphic toy for babies and toddlers - made of organic materials: head, arms and feet up to the knees made of papier-mache, with a specific childish face, with long chestnut hair, with two hairpins, with closing eyes, body shaped carcass covered with white fabric and filled with cotton wool. An aperture for sound from the horn to come out is in the chest and a crank on the left side. The niche with a spring-driven phonograph mechanism and a 5.5 cm-diameter cylinder is on the back. 

    The cylinder is made of cardboard, with two circular apertures on the top metal panel, with the inscriptions on the flat end, with working surface from celluloid, with a phonogram. The doll is wearing a light dress made of white cambric, with floral pattern in the cutwork technique and embroidery, a pink knitted wrapover blouse with short sleeves.

    White knitted socks and booties made of beige patterned material with fasteners around ankles are on her feet. When the mechanism is switched on, the lullaby “Rock-a-bye Baby” in English sounds. In this lullaby, the child is afraid that somebody will hang his cradle high on the top of a tree where the wind blows, and that his cradle will swing and when (not “if”, but precisely “when”) the bough breaks, the cradle will fall to the ground, everything will fall: a child, a cradle and a bough and everything else.

    As the report of the Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry (Ontario, Canada) noted, “it is good that the baby does not understand the words that are sung to him!”

    The first printed version of this lullaby, from Mother Goose's Melody (London, circa 1765), was as follows:

    Rock-a-bye baby
    on the treetop,
    When the wind blows
    The cradle will rock.
    The cradle will fall
    And down will fall baby
    Cradle and all.