Hückel dolls made their appearance much later than other German dolls such as those by Caco and Erna Meyer, and are less well known to collectors.
We believe that they were first made in the 1970s, and they were advertised until at least 2002.
Prior to this, Hückel had manufactured hats. The Hückel family started making hats in the town of Neutitschein (Novy Jičin), Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic) in 1799. They had built a factory for mass production of felt hats in the 1860s, but in 1948, it was nationalised as a state enterprise. It continues to operate, and is now called Tonak a.s.
Photo of Novy Jičin factory chimney © sludgegulper on flickr
Photos © Sabreterp on flickr
However, the Hückel family left Moravia after World War II and moved to West Germany, where they established a new hat factory, the Hückel Hutfabrik G.m.b.H., in Weilheim, near Munich.
We are not certain of the chain of events, but after many years of appearing in the telephone directory as a hat manufacturer, Harald Hückel appears in the Nuremberg Toy Fair catalogues of 1976 and 1977 with his “Regenbogenkinder”, rainbow children dolls, under the name of Harald Hückel Spielzeugfabrik, Weilheim.
Photo © Herr & Frau Schnelle
Did he perhaps find that the demand for hats had dropped by the 1970s, and so switched to making dolls? The dolls were successful in Germany, and were also exported – in the 1980s, they were sold through Hobbies catalogues in Britain.
Hückel dolls from a 1983 catalogue of recommended toys in Germany
Hückel dolls from the Hobbies Handbook for 1984/85
From 1979-2002 they were also sold through Bodo Hennig catalogues as “Modell Hückel” dolls by Schildkröt. Over a period of more than 50 years Bodo Hennig had a lot of different dolls house dolls on sale. Always looking for the best quality, he sold dolls of well-known doll manufacturers - at first, the producer's name was not mentioned, but later it was.
This photo from the VEDES catalogue 1985 shows a Bodo Hennig dolls house with Schildkröt dolls - model Hückel.
In the middle on the stairs is the grandparents’ German shepherd dog (?). I have them in their original packing, where the manufacturer's details are clearly shown:
These rubber dolls are of better quality than the Schleich dolls, with which they are sometimes confused.
Here are the grandparents in Lundby scale:
and here for comparison is a man in the Hennig scale of 1:12:
Erna Meyer dolls were his favourite dolls from the beginning, but over many years he also sold “Modell Hückel” dolls. He only offered the 1:12 dolls line whereas Schildkröt itself sold the same dolls in many different scales (see below). They were made of soft vinyl over a wire frame.
You could choose between two families, the first one being the more leisurely clothed Happies, later called Mr and Mrs Cheerful, and the more elegantly dressed "Family Noble".
From the Bodo Hennig catalogue for 1979: (l) the family Cheerful, (r) the family Noble
From a Bodo Hennig catalogue of the early 1990s: (l) the family Cheerful, (r) the family Noble, with the grandparents and dog in the centre
Photo © Florine Bettge
The back of the box provides an accessory to make: a suitcase!
The clothes varied over the years, carefully adjusting to fashion. At first the family with two children - boy and girl, of course - was packed in one selling unit, later they were separated in parents and kids.
My Mr and Mrs Cheerful are from the beginning of the 1990s, in 1995 the clothes changed again, and from 2002 on they were not sold by Hennig any more.
The first image in this article was taken from a 1980s catalogue from Germany's famous traditional doll manufacturer Schildkröt. Here the Hückel dolls appear under the name of the much older Schildkröt (Turtle Mark) company. According to Herr & Frau Schnelle of Liebenswerte Welt der Puppen und Steifftiere, the firm of Schildkröt-Puppen GmbH took over production of the Hückel company in 1989. However, we have found that the Harald Hückel Spielwarenfabrikation GmbH still existed through the 1980s until 1994, so perhaps Schildkröt bought only the doll-making side of the Hückel company, and Hückel continued on making other things – we don’t know.
This catalogue shows the large range of dolls available, including dolls with brushable hair, dolls of different ethnicities and dolls dressed in different occupational uniforms.
All dolls are dressed typically for this period.
Florine perhaps has the Komo family:
Photo © Florine Bettge
My grandparents with their dog are in the catalogue, too.
Florine has the baker (who looks rather like a fast food attendant of today):
The dolls could be dressed and undressed, and additional sets of clothes were also available:
In my large Bodo-Hennig-dollhouse a naked doll is sitting on the bathtub - obviously a child forgot to redress her...
The catalogue illustrates the different scales available:
The smallest scale is for model railways
A last glance at the dolls in the catalogue - this page shows dolls in 1:18 or 3/4 inch scale. But who is the elegantly dressed pair on the left?
Lady Di in 1:18 = 10,5 cm = 4 1/8 inch = 3/4 inch scale - and even with removable clothes!
Hückel posable dolls were still included in the Schildkröt catalogue in 1999, with new models appearing, including a bridal party:
(For what period, we wonder? The mother of the bride or bridegroom wears a rather oldfashioned dress and all the other ones look like contemporaries...)
Also dolls dressed for particular jobs:
The woman in blue is probably a flight attendant, because a postal worker would surely have a big postbag - but there was no explanation in the doll's journal where I found the photos.
Some 8cm (1:22 or 24th scale) dolls
Different packaging, photos © Herr & Frau Schnelle
When we were researching this article, we discovered the website of Herr & Frau Schnelle: Liebenswerte Welt der Puppen und Steifftiere, http://www.spielzeugausstellung.com/3.html . Frau Schnelle was not only kind enough to allow us to include some of their photos of Hückel dolls, she also emailed some photos of the storeroom for Hückel dolls, taken on a tour of the Schildkröt factory in Rauenstein.
Here are Hückel dolls stored in boxes, with an identifying doll stapled to the top.
Photos © Herr & Frau Schnelle
Clothes make the doll: these dolls are still waiting to be dressed!
Frau Schnelle even telephoned Herr Biemann, current manager of the firm Schildkröt Puppen und Spielzeug GmbH (Turtle Mark Dolls and Toys), and we are indebted to them for the following information about the current availability of Hückel dolls.
Why can Schildkröt Model Hückel dolls only be ordered on the internet?
They are dolls from our old stock
Why are they not in the main Schildkröt catalogue?
Because we don’t have a large inventory of them.
Are Hückel bendable dolls still produced?
Yes, for an order of about 100 dolls.
Are Hückel dolls newly produced for such an order, or are they from the remaining stock?Yes, as soon as an order is processed, they are newly produced from the old moulds and dressed by an employee.
Model Hückel dolls can be ordered from the Schildkröt online shop; Herr and Frau Schnelle also sell some through their online shop. Perhaps you already have some in your collection, and now you can put a name to them!