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Catalog Number 8073-85
Title Doll; Composition; Girl; Mary Jane
Object Name Doll
Description Composition head with molded hair; eyes and mouth painted on. Body is newer--pink plastic arms and hands. The rest of the body is cotton. Wearing lace dress with silk sash and plastic flowers around collar. Lace pantaloons and silk stockings. Black oilcloth shoes.
Date 1870
Material composition, lace, cotton, silk, oilcloth, plastic, paint
Height (in) 14.5
People Tanner, Richard Jerome, 1869-1943
History This doll belonged to Richard "Diamond Dick" Tanner. Tanner was born in Taylorville, Illinois, in 1869, and came to Nebraska in 1878. He began his career as a long distance rider and circus performer in the 1890s. In 1905 he entered medical school in Nebraska and in1910 he combined his show business talent and knowledge of herbs to promote and sell natural remedies out of his Norfolk, Nebraska location. Although he temporarily dropped the Diamond Dick moniker and persona, he eventually eased his way back into the public spotlight as Diamond Dick. A self-proclaimed specialist in chronic diseases, Dr. Tanner enjoyed success as such, no-doubt aided by his self-promotion as a noted personality of the "Wild West."

Tanner acquired this doll when he was one year old. It was a gift from his aunt, Mary Jane Vandeveer, who named her "Mary Jane". Tanner took this doll with him on his many travels. He recalled, "When I rode my pony "Gyp" 5,500 miles in 1893...'Mary Jane' was in the pack behind the saddle. When I visited Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show at the World's Fair in Chicago, Buffalo Bill showed 'Mary Jane' to the famous old Chief Rain-In-The-Face who held the doll in his hands and remarked, 'papoose heap good, papoose no cry." While with another circus we showed on a lot right near the Black River in Wisconcin [sic] and a little girl with the show was playing with 'Mary Jane' near the bank of the river and in some way she fell into the river, a man saw her fall in and he rescued her, but 'Mary Jane' floated off down the stream, but before she became wet enough to sink another man jumped in and rescued her." Tanner goes on to tell a story about a monkey in Mexico City that grabbed the doll, tore of its dress and pulled off its arms and legs. The ladies with the show obtained another body and the wardrobe woman made a new dress for her. See also the NSHS Archives for letters about "Mary Jane".
Credit line Dr. Richard Tanner (Heirs), Norfolk (Madison), Nebraska
Collection Tanner, Dr. Richard (Heirs)