The German J.D. Kestner doll company made dolls in Waltershausen (Thuringia region) for almost 100 years. The earliest Kestner dolls were wood and papier mache, and then china, but the dolls that Kestner is best known for are the bisque dolls from the late 1800s into the early 1900s.
The Kestner company produced dolls of many molds and types: child dolls, character dolls, all-bisque dolls, lady dolls, baby dolls, and many others.
The Kestner doll company started producing dolls in the 1820s (some say as early as 1810) and produced dolls until approximatedly 1938.
Unfortunately, little is known about the early history of Kestner Dolls. The company didn't start to mark dolls until well into the production of bisque dolls. It is known that Johann Daniel Kestner Jr. began producing papier mache and wood dolls at least as early as the early 1920s. Kestner's production changed with the times, and the doll factory produced china dolls, then bisque dolls, as tastes dictated. Johann died in 1858, and his grandson Adolf took over operations in 1863. Adolf died in 1918,and yet the Kestner company continued for another 20 years after. The factory was one of the biggest employers in the region.
Early Kestner bisque dolls are just marked with a number or a size. Later dolls are usually well marked with the mold mark and Made in Germany; some of the baby dolls are marked JDK. There are many variations on Kestner marks.
The original dolls were papier mache and wood. Then china dolls (glazed porcelain) were made, and finally the dolls that Kestner are best known for: -bisque dolls. The Kestner doll factory was very large, and Kestner made doll heads for many other doll companies as well. Kestner not only made heads, but they also made bodies of many types, which was unusual since many companies only made doll heads, or only made doll bodies in the 1800s.