Who is Hitty? Until last year I didn't know anything about Hitty and then a friend introduced the Hitty doll to me and was surprised that I had never read the Hitty book. She was referring to "Hitty, the First Hundred Years" by Rachel Field and illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop. I bought the book, read it and became a Hitty fan!
The original Hitty is a 6 1/4"doll carved out of Mountain Ash wood in the 1820s. No one knows by whom. Rachel Field, an author of children's books and Dorothy Lathrop, an illustrator of the same, after having dinner together one evening in New York City both discovered they each had been admiring the same tiny doll in the window of an antique shop that was familiar to both. Dorothy Lathrop had just that day entered the shop and inquired about the doll. She was told the doll was over a hundred years old and her name was Hitty as stated on a tiny piece of brown paper pinned to her dress. When told the price she knew it was far too expensive for either of them to purchase.
After Dorothy Lathrop returned to her home in Albany, NY, Rachel Field continued to visit Hitty through the window as she passed by. One day to her surprise Hitty was not there! When she informed Dorothy Lathrop of this sad news she suggested that Rachel Field at least go into the shop, ask if the doll had gone to a good home. She also said that it had occurred to her that the two of them should have purchased the doll together.
Rachel Field did go into the shop to inquire and discovered Hitty had recently been shown to a customer and had simply not been returned to the window. Imagine her delight! Immediately she bought the doll and had it shipped to her friend so she could start drawing illustrations for the story that was already forming in her mind.
That summer the friends took their purchase to a cottage in the Cranberry Islands off the coast of Maine and spent the entire time writing and illustrating scenarios for a 100 year life span of Hitty. The book was published in October 1929 by The Macmillan Company and in 1930 Rachel Field was the first woman to win the John Newbery Medal as "the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children" in that season.
After being taken along on lecture tours until the mid 1930s Hitty lived in California with Rachel Field following her marriage. After her death in 1942 Hitty was sent to Dorothy Lathrop in Albany where she remained until 1988 when a relative handling the settlement of her estate donated the doll to The Historic Room in the Library at Stockbridge, MA the village where the Field family had roots and where Rachel Field is buried. Hitty continues to receive visitors at that location.
The book about Hitty has been read and enjoyed by young and old for generations. Today Hitty has hundreds of fans and is being replicated by about a dozen artists. The "Friends of Hitty" newsletter established in 1995, published in Cheverly, MD by Virginia Heyerdahl. It was a forum for the distribution of information about Hitty and events relating to her. As one can see, Hitty dolls are quite collectible!
The Hitty Robertson Journal on this web site is the story of the Hitty dolls that live with our family and how the events of the family are viewed from a dolls perspective.
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