One of the best known doll manufacturers in our country is
Martta-Nukketeollisuus in Turku. It was established by the Martta-association in 1908. The
basic idea was to get income to the housewive's by making good quality dolls. Dressed to
our national costumes the first Martta dolls were presented allready the same year in
"Martta-days". The dolls were hand made including all the cloths that were used
for clothes; only the heads were factory-made by German Gebruder Heubach. At first the
dolls were sold mainly on the market places and on the market in Turku, Salo, Helsinki and
Tampere. Martta Nukketeollisuus showed its collection also diligently on the exhibitions
also abroad, in countries like Sweden and Russia. Then there was a shortage of doll heads
that had been brought from Germany at the time of the First World War and the dolls had to
be sold even without the head. Because of that they started to make dolls also with a
cloth head, but the customers, who had got used to a high quality, did not like them.
At last Toy Maker Emil Nurmi came to help. He had begun the
manufacturing "of all kinds of toys" in Turku as early as in 1916. Now he
started to make composite doll heads from self-developing material. It was some kind of
plaster paper pulp mixture,which resembles porcelain. Later Martta-Nukketeollisuus could
have for themselves an exclusive right to the sales of doll heads in1935. Because of the
war imported things had a high duty and this protected the production of Nukketeollisuus
Martta Nukketeollisuus was growing fast; the number of workers had increased in 10 years
from16 to 112 persons. Also special was the fact that nearly everyone, who had
participated in the manufacturing of the parts of the doll, worked at home. Only the
finishing and the seamstresses' of the dolls and the training was done in
"Nukkela". There were only 3-4 persons working there in addition to the leaders.
Furthermore, 30 persons worked in Leluvalmistamo, toy workshop, of H.E. Nurmi.
In 1930 the products of Martta-Nukketeollisuus were rewarded in Suurmessut, the big fair,
in Helsinki with a gold medal of Finland's exhibition. At this time was created the
perhaps most popular doll of Nukketeollisuus, Bebe.It could close its eyes and resembled
Shirley Temple. The whole 1930-century was a busy time for Martta Nukketeollisuus. Also
plenty of other small enterprises, that made dolls, were established in Finland. A lot of
dolls with national costumes were sold to Sweden and also to Norway.
Difficulties began again at the 1940´s beacause of the Second World War and the supply of
the material stopped. Now dolls had to be made even of paper cloth. It was impossible to
get glass eyes and mohair hairs to the make the nice looking Bebe-dolls. The depression
created a new Bebe model, Bebe without moving eyes and mohair hair, and the clothes also
became simpler. The whole 1940's ,except for the beginning in Nukkela, was extremely busy.
There were more orders than it was possible to manufacture the dolls for.
In the beginning of 1950's the situation was still difficult regarding the imported parts.
So some test samples of moving eyes were made to some doll models from mass and metal by
the factory Nurmi. In 1950 Nukkela won a gold medal for its products from Suurmessut for
the second time. But the times were changing; it was time to move to a new era, the time
of plastic and rubber. Plastic and rubber dolls and doll heads entered deals. Their price
was considerably more convenient than the price of the products of Nukkela. The dolls with
eyes and a voice were still sold in the middle of the 1950 .
There were more and more foreign dolls at the market in the
beginning of 1960's and also in the home country many new competitors were born . One of
the most famous ones was in Vihti, Dollytex, that makes plastic dolls. Fortunately a new
baby was born in Nukkela, a soft rag doll; it was like a lifeline to them. In addition to
the rag doll they started again to produce soft toy animals. Also the body of the dolls in
national dress was reformed in the 60's.
All these actions helped for a while, but in 1974 Martta-Yhdistys needed to sell the whole
doll production and Nukkela to Kanerva's process family. The foreign competition however
was not the only reason for the sales of the production, there were also internal
conflicts that most probably had an effect on the matter. Martta-Nukketeollisuus of Turku
was operating for nearly 70 years, from the year 1908 to the year 1974. It's long period
because the production consisted mostly of the different dolls with composite head and
their clothes only.
I have used the following books as
Suuri Suomalainen Nukkekirja ISBN 951-9440-52-6
Pipsa Ystäväni / Min Vän Pipsa ISBN 951-9125-70-1
Some Martta Dolls from my
made at 1940's
Doll "Pipsa" made at 1930-40 Below
Pipsa.s brother "