Skookum dolls – Souvenirs of the old West

Skookum Doll FaceThere was  a red-faced woman doll secreted away in a family trunk for years. Once I took the doll to school for show and tell. I think we were studying the American West.  The doll was a souvenir item purchased on one my family member’s trips, probably before the 1940’s. She was fondly known as the “Indian Doll.”

The doll, wrapped in a trade blanket, had sharp black eyes looking warily right. Her baby, peeking out from her blanket on her back,  had a cherubic happy face. But I knew nothing about these dolls until I came across a collector at Toadlena Trading Post in New Mexico.  Linda  Larouche had a marvelous collection of Skookum dolls, among other things, and thus began my education.

Skookum Doll History
Mary McAboy, of Missoula, Montana,  first started making Skookum dolls in 1913 and received a patent for them in 1914.They were sold to the tourists at trading posts in the Western United States. Skookum dolls are not made by Native Americans. They are a tourist trade item and, nowadays, highly collectible.

Skookum dolls reflected Mary’s understanding of the local Native culture. (Histories describe the culture as Siwash, but more research shows that Siwash is actually a very derogatory term.)  

A paper label with the words, Skookum  (Bully Good) Indian, was placed on the foot of each doll. Skookum is slang in the Pacific Northwest for “good” or “excellent.”Skookum Doll

Mary’s first dolls were made with apple heads. She dressed them how she envisioned Native Americans would dress with calico dresses, trade blankets and long hair. She probably admired them and thought they were “Skookum.”

Finding Skookum Dolls Today
You’ll probably find a Skookum doll on eBay. But do your research so you know a bit more about them before bidding.  A great site for information, and to find dolls, is The Skookum News, edited by Linda Larouche.

Skookum DollSouvenirs
You never know what will become of your travel souvenirs as you pass them along to your children and grandchildren. You never know which souvenirs will become collectible. Do you have a Fred Harvey bracelet or a Skookum doll in your trunk? If so, you have a great souvenir of the early tourist trade in the West.

 Photo Credit: Elizabeth R. Rose



  1. I have a Skookum Native American Indian Doll it stands 3 foot tall with baby.It belong to my great grandmother and then my grandmother and then my mother, now I have it and if I was to give it to my daughter it will have been in our family for 5 Generations. Would someone please help me with it please of what it’s worth. Thankyou Cathy