Maureen England is a curatorial volunteer at the Charles Dickens Museum and is completing her PhD at Kings College on Dickens’s characters.
These fantastic pincushions representing Tom Pinch, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Bumble, Tony Weller, and Captain Cuttle have recently been re-discovered in the museum collection. They are late nineteenth century to early twentieth century porcelain and fabric pincushion dolls. Sometimes also called half-dolls, the porcelain torso and feet attached to the pincushion ‘hips’ were sometimes also made into full dolls or dressing table brushes. Most remaining pincushions of this type are female figurines, very often in eighteenth century fashions, mostly miscellaneous females, and usually only have the porcelain torso (although the feet attachments seem more popular in the 1920s).
Pin cushions of Tom Pinch, Mr Bumble, Captain Cuttle, Mr Pickwick and Tony Weller, Charles Dickens Museum Collection (DH258, DH259, DH264, DH265 & DH266) These precious Dickens figurines seem different and rare to other half-dolls often found online and in antique shops. Interestingly, they are all male characters which makes the bulging pincushion ‘hips’ all the more incongruous. There are no identifying hallmarks on the porcelain baring a single number on each base- 17241, 17243, 17244, 17246, and 17248- which means that there may have been more figurines in the series. Why these characters, especially seeing as Tom Pinch is very infrequently represented in memorabilia? Where there originally female characters in the series? One day, perhaps, we may know more.
This blog takes you behind the scenes at the Charles Dickens Museum, giving fresh insight on everything from discoveries new and old in our collection, to exhibitions, events and learning initiatives.
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