Brianna Beehler at Public Books:
Nowhere in Europe were more dolls born in the 19th and 20th centuries than in Sonneberg, Germany, the former center of Europe’s toy-making industry. Sonneberg, like a child lost without breadcrumbs to follow, lies hidden in the heart of the Thuringian forest. The surrounding forest initially supported a successful wood-carving toy trade. But it was the introduction of papier-mâché in the early 19th century—a technique that uses molds rather than individual wood carvings—that spurred mass production.
By the end of the 19th century, Sonneberg was well known for crafting and distributing toys of all kinds, but it was particularly famed for its doll-making industry. This booming production drew vendors and tourists from near and far, who came to witness the origins of children’s playthings.