Before she started in the doll business, Mary Hoyer was a designer of knit and crochet patterns for children's clothing. In the 1930's, she opened her own yarn and craft shop in Reading, PA. Soon she added doll clothing and patterns to her inventory. To create a market for her doll designs, she purchased composition dolls from Ideal to sell along with the patterns. These dolls were 13" tall with a double jointed torso known as a "body twist." These early painted-eye dolls had Ideal markings. When Ideal discontinued the style, Mrs. Hoyer hired renowned doll designer Bernard Lipfert to sculpt a doll for her. This new model, manufactured by the Fiberoid Doll Co., was slightly bigger at 14" tall and also had painted eyes, but did not have the jointed torso. The earliest dolls are unmarked, but soon the Mary Hoyer logo in a circle was added to the back of the doll. Dolls with sleep eyes were also added to the lineup. The same model was used for both girl and boy dolls.
In 1946 Mary Hoyer switched from composition to hard plastic dolls, using the same design. She continued to market her knit and crochet patterns, and sold finished outfits and sewing kits in her shop as well as by mail order.
In the mid-fifties, Mary Hoyer decided to branch out by adding other dolls to her line. The first was Gigi, an 18" hard plastic girl. She has the same markings as the 14" doll, and several outfits available for her. The company then decided to try vinyl dolls; they marketed high-heeled glamour dolls that were reportedly made for them by Ideal. The larger sizes were quickly discontinued, but they sold 10.5" Vicky (similar to Ideal's Little Miss Revlon) for a couple of years. The glamour dolls are unmarked and very difficult to identify. Margie, a 10" vinyl toddler, and babies Cathy (10") and Jamie (8") were also offered.
The company had continued to sell its 14" hard plastic doll throughout the fifties, but in the early sixties, they switched to a new vinyl doll called Becky. Mary Hoyer retired in 1972, but her company was resurrected in 1990 by her granddaughter, Mary Lynne Saunders. They continue today making high-quality play dolls for children and collectors. Mrs. Hoyer passed away in 2003 at the age of 101.
Sources for this page include:
- "Dolls & Accessories of the 1930s and 1940s" by Dian Zillner
- "Dolls & Accessories of the 1950s" by Dian Zillner
- "Collector's Encyclopedia of American Composition Dolls 1900-1950, Volume II" by Ursula R. Mertz
- "Compo Dolls 1928-55" by Polly and Pam Judd
- Mary Hoyer Doll Company website: www.maryhoyer.com
Copyright 2006 by Zendelle Bouchard.
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