George Evan Mills Dancing Peg Dolls

Original Dancing Dolls

George Evan Mills was born in Llandeglau, Radnorshire, Wales in 1855 / 56. He worked for the Maskelyne and Devant Magic Show for some years. When he left he took to a street pedlars life, travelling up and down the North West coast of England and Wales. He made playing cards for magic tricks and the dancing peg dolls which he sold on the streets. 

John Earl, who is a descendant of George Evan Mills, passed an old leather Doctors style bag on to Jim Eldon. John knew that Jim made wooden toys and puppets and was also steeped in the tradition of street entertainment. He thought Jim would know what to do with the contents of the bag. On further investigation the bag contained dozens of Peg Dolls in various stages of construction, printing blocks for playing cards and printed instructions for the peg dolls. The peg dolls were crudely but efficiently made from two dolly pegs, nails, small strips of wood and simply decorated with a touch of red and black dye to distinguish the pairs from each other.

Jim showed the bag and its contents to friend and artist Corona Smith:  “I was amazed. I had seen peg dolls before of course. But never this ingenious use of them.We were struck, as were our audience, with the beauty of the peg dolls. When made to work with music to accompany them the former dolly pegs become magically transformed into jaunty little couples, dancing, clogging, skipping and jumping in time to the music. They echo each others movements as they become animated tiny people. I have not met many people who know of these ingenious dancing dolls, and it seems that up until now they have almost been lost to history.”

Replica sets available here are handmade and painted by artist and musician Corona Smith.

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