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Hitty: Her First Hundred Years

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who is Hitty?
First published in 1929, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field won the Newbery Award in 1930. Since that time, Hitty has been a popular children's book enjoyed by generations of children.

The book details the memoirs of a small wooden doll named Hitty, who was residing in an antique shop. Access to pen and paper prompted Hitty to write her life story from the time of her creation in a cottage in her hiome state of Maine until her arrival in the antique store nearly one hundred years later.

According to her memoirs, she was originally carved for a particular child. Due to misadventures, she was lost and went through a series of subsequent owners (children until roughly the 1880s). In later years she is owned by a series of adults, ultimately ending in the hands of this book's author Rachel Field. A must-read for doll literature enthusiasts, and one of my very favourite children's books.

The real Hitty doll

the real Hitty Hitty is not merely a storybook doll, though. She really does exist in our world. The inspiration for the book was a small wooden doll discovered in an antique shop by the author Rachel Field in the 1920s. Once acquired, the doll seemed to take on a life of her own as part of the author's personal collection.

The doll is peg-jointed and carved from ash wood with both arms and legs moving as a pair. She is six and one-quarter inches tall. This doll presently resides at the Stockbridge Library Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts with the clothing and accessories bought for her by Rachel Field.

If you are interested in visiting the Real Hitty, prior to your visit please contact the Stockbridge Library to ensure that you will be able to view Hitty. In the interest of conservation of an antique, she is not always available for viewing. Photos are no longer permitted due to her fragile state, but postcards and related images of her are available for sale.

Mountain ash or white ash?

The general consensus, judging from the wood grain pattern, is that Hitty is carved from white ash. Not only is mountain ash a hardwood which is difficult to obtain, but mountain ash and white ash have distinctively different grain. They are unrelated trees such that it is easy to tell the difference.

Hitty's age

Although Hitty was declared to be 100 years old at the time Rachel Field purchased her (1920s), the style in which her hair is carved indicates that she was probably made around 1860.

Collectors celebrate 22 January as the birthday of the Real Hitty.

Editions of Hitty

The standard edition of Hitty includes illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop, a good friend of Rachel Field. The earliest (hardcover) editions also include several colour plates which are not included in today's editions. It is well worth seeking out a first edition if you are interested in a copy with the colour plates.

Hitty -- orange cover
Standard hardcover edition with dust jacket. This is usually a library binding.
  Hitty -- green cover
Aladdin Paperbacks (Simon & Schuster) edition. Softcover current edition.
  Hitty -- purple cover
Special "digest" edition for younger children.

Modern Hitty dolls

Hitty dolls
If you enjoy collecting dolls, you might like to have your own Hitty doll. A Hitty doll is wooden doll based on the doll in the book Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Most wooden Hitty dolls are 6 and one-quarter inches tall like the original Hitty doll.

Hitty dolls, however, are generous in allowing other dolls to be considered a "Hitty", and it is not uncommon today to find Hittys made from wood, cloth, resin, or even porcelain, so long as they are created in a similar style to the original Hitty doll. Many Hitty artists enjoy experimenting with different media in which to create Hittys. There have also been a number of Hitty gatherings over the last few decades, and many of these feature a special artist-made Hitty doll. These dolls are highly sought-after by collectors, as are most artist-made Hitty dolls.

Carve your own Hitty doll

For beginning carvers, basswood (linden) is an excellent soft wood to start with. Study the illustrations in the original book to decide how you want your Hitty to look.

Note: You will probably not be happy with the first few attempts at carving your own Hitty doll. Consider it a learning experience.

Clothes for Hitty dolls

It can be difficult to sew for Hitty due to her small size. You can however practice and learn to sew for her. If you can find older doll magazines with Hitty clothing patterns, you will be able to sew clothes for her.

Tip: Tiny dolls and sewing machines do not mix. You will probably need to hand-sew such fine little seams for Hitty's clothes.

Note: Hitty is a tiny doll. The coral beads for her necklace are 2mm in diameter. Anything larger looks out of scale. This can be a difficult size to find.

Hitty scale

Although Hitty can technically fit into a 1:12 scale dollhouse, she is too large for this scale. She and her things are considered 1:8 scale. This is why a lot of Hitty collectors simply make things to fit her scale rather than trying to use too-small 1:12 scale furniture.

Stands for Hitty dolls

If you intend to display your Hitty in a standing position, you will probably need a doll stand for her. Very few Hitty dolls are carved to be able to stand unattended.

I find that the small Kaiser brand doll stands (#1101) are a good fit for a "standard" (6 1/4" to 6 1/2") Hitty.

Hale 'ōhai Hittys -- my Hitty dolls

'Ōhai: Albizia saman, sometimes called "monkeypod tree" or "rain tree". A tropical hardwood. "Hale 'ōhai" means "Raintree House".

Please meet the Raintree Hittys.

  Hitty Aelish   Name: Hitty Aelish
Medium: Irish rowan wood #3/3
Year: JAN 2017
Made by: Ae Jaikad & Holly Mattos
Signed: on back
Size: 6 1/4" tall
 
  Hitty Beatrice   Name: Hitty Beatrice
Medium: linden wood
Year: MAY 1995
Made by: Judy Brown
Signed: on back
Size: 6 1/4" tall
 
  Hitty Coral   Name: Hitty Coral
Medium: linden wood
Made by: Susan Corbett
Signed: heart stamp on front
Size: 6 1/4" tall
 
  Hitty Felicity   Name: Hitty Felicity
Type: DRC Hittykin2 #52
Medium: resin/white ash flour
Year: 2006
Made by: DeAnn Cote
Signed: on back
Size: 6 1/2" tall
 
  Hitty Florence   Name: Hitty Florence
Type: DRC Hittykin #1-82
Medium: resin/white ash flour
Year: 2000
Made by: DeAnn Cote
Signed: on back
Size: 6 1/2" tall
 
  Hitty Penelope   Name: Hitty Penelope
Medium: linden wood
Year: 2002
Made by: American Kit Company
Signed: no
Size: 6 3/4" tall
 
  Hitty Poppy   Name: Hitty Poppy
Medium: linden wood
Year: 2002
Made by: American Kit Company
Signed: no
Size: 6 3/4" tall
 
  Hitty Primavera   Name: Hitty Primavera
Medium: black walnut wood #481
Year: 2017
Made by: Judy Brown
Signed: on back
Size: 6 1/2" tall
 
  Hitty Rosebud   Name: Hitty Rosebud
Type: Little Hitty #60
Medium: linden wood
Year: 1999
Made by: Judy Brown
Signed: on back
Size: 3 3/4" tall
 
  Hitty Sweetpea   Name: Hitty Sweetpea
Type: DRC Little Hittykin
Medium: resin/white ash flour
Made by: DeAnn Cote
Signed: mold mark on back
Size: 3" tall
 

Further reading

books like Hitty
One excellent way to encourage children to read more is to find more books of a similar genre and/or writing style to one of the books that your child particularly enjoyed reading. If your child has read and enjoyed Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, he or she might also enjoy the following "doll literature" books.

Memoirs of a London doll Memoirs of a London Doll by Richard Henry Horne (1922): This book seems to have had a clear influence on Rachel Field's Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, even to the doll retaining a possession marked with her name. In my opinion Hitty is a more charming and connected book. This seems a bit disjointed with Maria changing owners every chapter or two. In addition, despite the similarity of time period, there is a grittiness to London Doll which is not present in Hitty. Four Dolls Four Dolls by Rumer Godden (1983): Combined edition which includes Ms Godden's short stories: Fairy Doll, Impunity Jane, The Story of Holly and Ivy, and Candy Floss.

Perhaps due to their shorter length, the stories were not as engaging as some of her other works (Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and Little Plum). I didn't develop as great of an attachment to the characters although the stories were on the whole well-written examples of the "doll literature" genre.

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden (1961): The author's writing style is quite precise and clear. I especially enjoyed the footnotes that became the endnotes for the book to explain both the Japanese terms in the book and the techniques for constructing the house. The book is in many ways reminiscent of A Secret Garden and A Little Princess (i.e. child is sent from India to England for school). Very well-written if slightly dated. Little Plum Little Plum by Rumer Godden (1963): The sequel to Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, set a year later. The little girl who moves in next-door gets a Japanese doll of her own, but neglects the poor little thing. Eventually the Fell girls make friends and are able to invite their neighbor over so all their Japanese dolls can have a traditional Doll Festival together. To me the best parts of the book are the dolls talking amongst themselves (which the humans of course cannot hear). Miss Happiness and Miss Flower are very insightful in their own way.
Miss Hickory Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1946): A delightful if slightly disjointed book about a doll with a hickory nut head. Some of the adventures don't fit the storyline properly, but the surprising ending when spring comes is strangely hopeful. The Doll's House The Doll's House by Rumer Godden (1947): A doll's view of the world in which an eclectic collection of dolls occupy a dollhouse.

Hitty by Rosemary Wells Hitty Travels series Hitty Travels series Hitty Travels series Hitty Travels series For younger readers, there are several "alternative universe" adaptations featuring Hitty. These are to some extent a "reimagined" version of the original 1929 classic with all-new adventures for. They are not in my opinion as good as the original. The Hitty dolls in these books have a much different illustrated appearance from that of the Original Hitty. Younger children however will enjoy seeing Hitty's "new adventures" in these books.

These books can be difficult to find since many are out of print. Some great places to buy used books online include:

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Visit the Real Hitty

Tip: Phone ahead if you would like to pay respects to the Original Hitty during your visit to the Library.

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