During a visit with Carlene Dick at her home one afternoon, she gave me two books written by an Honors English class of the Presque Isle High School in 1985 and 1989.  These stories, written by the high school students and printed by the graphic arts department of the Presque Isle Regional Vocational Center, are packed full of informtion about the history of Aroostook County and some of its citizens.  I'm going to share the story of Ruth Anderson with you. She was a professor at the University of Maine Presque Isle and collected dolls. I am getting my information from the article She's Such A Doll" byWhitney McCloskey found in the Presque Isle Profiles: Articles of Aroostook and its People 1985.

    "Dr. Ruth B. Anderson, a professor at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, shared with me her knowledge about her fascinating hobby of collecting dolls during a recent interview at her home in Fort Fairfield.  As I entered her home, I felt immediately welcome in the warm atmosphere.  A large Christmas tree was displayed in her homey living room where a countless number of beautiful dolls surrounded me at every angle.  I was overwhelmed by the sight of it!  As we sat and chatted for a few minutes, I knew that I was in for an afternoon that I surely would not forget.

     Dr. Anderson lived in Long Island for a number of years as a chool teacher before shemoved to Fort Fairfield thirteen years ago.  She had always liked dolls as a child, even showed me her own childhood dolldishes.  She proudly professed, "I never broke one of them."!  

     When she and her husband, John, moved to Maine, Dr. Anderson had only one doll.  "Because myhusband is an antique dealer, I sort of got interested (in dolls) and it gets me the things.  People recommend and bring things to sell.  And, if it comes in our shop, I get first choice and that's how the collection has grown.  We now have close to five hundred dolls!"  she exclaimed.

     She then proceeded to show me her many beautiful dolls and accessories.  One dollhouse, in particular, caught my attention.  It was an Australian dollhouse made of oak.  The Andersons bought it at an auction.  It had once belonged to the heir of the Kodak Estate, Mrs. Strong, who had the largest toy museum in the United States in Rochester, N.Y.  "When Mrs. Strong was more than 70 years old, she had an income of $128,000 a day, and she spent her money buying toys.  Her husband and child both died at the same time.  She loved them so much that she would buy as many as sixty five of the same doll.  So, it took then 3-day auctions to sell the residue of her estate so they'd have room in Rochester for her museum."

     This dollhouse was, indeed, very interesting.  There were little dolls that "lived" there.  In the kitchen, dolls were playing poker and drinking beer.  Dr. Anderson added dolls to the ones that came with the house because she "couldn't resist."  Also included in the house was an album of tin-types of real people and a grandfather clock that actually keeps good time.

     In the living room, I noticed an interesting doll under the Christmas tree.  It had a costume of red fur and all that was visible of the doll was her face.  I asked Dr. Anderson about it.  "I got that doll for Christmas; I've never, ever seen another like her.  It's a teddy-bear with a child's face.  The face is made of bisque.  It's very rare and unusual.  Teddy-bears are getting so popular now and very expensive.  That one is so unusual."

     Continuing on my tour, I observed many other fascinating objects.  For instance, I saw her family's rocking horse and a bear on wheels, Emma clear dolls and wax dolls, George and Martha Washington dolls, bisque and porcelain - all beautiful and each one unique.  In addition, she has a China closet full of some very intriguing dolls; a wooden doll only 1/2" high, a brass doll, one of celluloid which is the earliest form of plastic - even a fashion model of paper mache from France.  She explained how the French people that these dolls represented would pile their hair way on top of their head and put a trap down inside.  "And they used to set their hair with lard because they didn't have hairspray.  And they had to be careful that the mice didn't nibble on their hair while they were sleeping."

     She shared with me the fact that the most expensive doll that she had ever seen cost $48,000.  Can you imagine?!?

     I asked her if she had any dolls that were like Haitian Voodoo dolls.  "I'd say that most of my dolls are toys- or what we call Artist dolls- which are dolls that we have just to look at or enjoy, but, I don't have any Voodoo dolls.  I have one doll that is supposed to have come from a tomb in Egypt.  I'm not sure if it did."

     Next, she showed me a doll tea party in progress in one corner of the room.  When I turned one doll's head, she blinked her eyes and "flirted" with the little boy doll next to her.

     We went to another part of her home which had a closet full of very small dolls.  There, I saw an old version of the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Campbell Kid, a bucking bronco Cupey dolls, the original Betty Boop, and finally, Blue Boy and Pinky, which she explained were famous paintings.

     She held out a very small basket containing some dolls, evidently very small.  She asked if I would care to guess how many dolls it contained.  I ventured fourteen.  She then counted them out in her hand.  They were so tiny?  "That's a good guess.  Let's see how close you are.  (counts)  Thirteen.  I think there were fourteen at one time.  Most people guess two or three, but you were very clever!"  A pat on the back for Whitney!

     She told countless stories about dolls ,Snow-babies, bonnet dolls, pin cushion dolls, nodders and black dolls.  "They would be considered racist now because they made the American dolls look very sweet and the African dolls look funny,"  There used to be a story that the ladies of long ago would stir their tea with these dolls, However, Dr. Anderson informed me that it wasn't true.

    Next, she showed me a doll called a Frozen Charlotte  and explained the doll's story.  She was a girl who went out with her boyfriend in a carriage and wouldn't put her cloak on.  When she came back, she was frozen.

    At the next stop during my tour, she continued to provide me with a wealth of information.  For example, she told me that most of her dolls' faces are made of bisque, which is unglazed porcelain.  Most of the hair is either real hair or goat's hair - which is called mohair.  Also, she told me about a Chase Hospital doll, which is a cloth doll that the nurses would use to learn how to handle their patients.

     Before I left, she not only showed me her very first doll and a Queen Loise... "And I think she looks every bit like a queen," but also a doll village with houses and stores and even an electric train.

     Although there was still so much more to learn about and see, we were out of time and I had to leave.  I thanked her for a lovely visit and left feeling overwhelmed by all this information.

     If you are interested in learning more about this wonderful lady and her dolls, visit the shop of her husband, John Anderson in Fort Fairfield.  They would be thrilled to share their enthusiasm with you."


  • Posted in the Bangor Daily News May 04, 2011, at 7:38 p.m.

FORT FAIRFIELD and NASHUA, N.H. – Dr. Ruth B. Anderson, 84, a magnanimous spirit, passed away Wednesday morning, May 4, 2011, in Nashua, N.H. She was born Jan. 14, 1927, in Metuchen, N.J., daughter of Jessie R. and Marion (Kellow) Brunstetter.

She started breaking new ground for women early in her life. At a time when proper women were expected to stay home, she embarked on a non-traditional career path. Ruth graduated from Metuchen High School and maintained friendships with her high school classmates throughout her life. While attending Trenton State Teachers College she was the first woman in the state to earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts. After several successful years as an industrial arts and elementary level teacher in Hicksville, N.Y., she set sites on a graduate education, earning a master’s degree from SUNY and eventually a doctorate from Syracuse University. She began teaching at the college level at Elmira College in New York while working on her doctorate. In 1972, Dr. Anderson accepted the appointment as chair of the Division of Education at University of Maine at Presque Isle and was later recognized as a professor emeritus of education. For 26 years she was a dedicated and influential professor and administrator. Ruth was a widely known authority in the area of gifted and talented education. She was a popular speaker at professional meetings and conferences both in Maine and around the country. Her leadership and instruction have been instrumental in the development of gifted and talented education throughout Aroostook County schools. Despite the responsibilities of raising a family and the demands of her career, Ruth always found time to serve on numerous boards and commissions. She and her late husband, John, devoted much time and energy to building and historical preservation of Fort Fairfield Blockhouse. She was an active member of United Parish Church, Fort Fairfield. Of all her noteworthy accomplishments, teaching was the closest to Ruth’s heart. Her gentle hand has touched the lives of thousands of aspiring teachers during nearly three decades. She is respected and loved by those she has mentored throughout the years. At Christmas time her mailbox was filled with cards and letters from young people who remember her kindness and wisdom. She retired from the University in 1998 and maintained a very active life, enjoying numerous hobbies and interests, entertaining her many friends and colleagues, and sharing her at home museum collection of antique dolls and toys. Her enthusiasm for living and her magnanimous spirit are an inspiration to all who know her. Ruth was the widow of John C. Anderson Jr., who was born in Lima, Ohio, and lived in Fort Fairfield, from 1972 to 1995.

She was predeceased by her sister, Ethel; and brothers, Phillip, Donald and William Brunstetter. She is survived by sister, Edith Benning of Monroe Township, N.J.; sons, John C. Anderson III of Chelmsford, Mass., and Thomas C. Anderson Sr.; daughter-in-law, Karen Anderson; grandsons, John William Anderson and Thomas Charles Anderson Jr., all of Westford, Mass.; numerous nieces and nephews.

Friends may call 7-9 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at Giberson-Dorsey Funeral Home, 144 Main St., Fort Fairfield, where a funeral service will be conducted 2 p.m. Sunday, May 8, with the Rev. Mark Babin officiating. Interment will take place after the service at Riverside Cemetery, Fort Fairfield. A time of continued fellowship with refreshments will be held immediately after the interment at VFW Paul Lockhart Post No. 6187, Presque Isle Street, Fort Fairfield. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that individuals make donations to John and Ruth Anderson Scholarship Fund, UMPI, 181 Main St., Presque Isle, ME 04769.


Return to FRONT PAGE.