Skookum Dolls, like many collectible Native American themed items, were originally sold as souvenirs. The first patent for a Skookum was filed by Mary McAboy of Missoula, Montana in 1914. Mrs. McAboy was originally from Maine and I can’t find any information on whether she had any Native American heritage of her own, but based on my limited research, I’m sadly guessing not. Her early dolls had straw or grass bodies and dried apple heads. For more on her and her connection to Butte, Montana, check out ButteHistory.com.
Sadly, I don’t have any Skookums of my own, but I know Lucy would love to keep a selection in Dusty Deals. The local history is just too perfect for her to resist and the dolls are charming. The ones I’m picturing here belong to my mother and I was with her when she purchased a number of them.
One major characteristic of Skookum dolls is that they don’t have arms. Instead they are wrapped in Indian blankets. This gives the appearance of arms, hidden by the cloth. Many
have “Skookum” stamped on the bottom of their foot or a tag with the word “Skookum” printed on it and all look either right or left. Most look to the right. Find one that looks to the left and it will be worth more.
Personally, I like this Skookum that was mailed as a postcard. I love the teepee, doll and the personal history attached with the addressed card. “Bessie Reedsch, 6420 Tipton Way, Los Hngles Calif.” The “Hngles” is what is printed on the card. Who thinks it’s an old typo of “Angeles?” If so, the person guilty of the typo mailed the card from Wyoming. I also love the fact that there was a time something like this was actually mailed through the post without being put in a box AND it survived AND is still looking good.
So far as the Skookum name, according to wikipedia, it’s Chinook Jargon, a trading language used by tribes of the Pacific Northwest. The meaning most associated with the dolls is “Bully Good.” It also is thought to mean brave, tough and impressive.
Whatever the original meaning, Skookum dolls have certainly found their way into the hearts of many a collector. Do you have any of your own? Or wish you did? Let me know in the comments what you think of Skookum dolls and their history.