Issue 170, Summer 2004
The first shipment was lost in the Atlantic in mid-October. Six hundred china dolls went to the bottom not far out from Rotterdam, with nothing either divine or human to prevent that disastrous descent of lace, arms, legs, and glazed eyes forever gazing sightlessly at fish that could not eat them. They are still there, smiling and silent among the seaweed like an open grotto in the garden of a pederast, a wild dream landscape for marine photographers and toy collectors, who calculate the value of each doll at a little over thirteen hundred German marks.
That surprising figure makes it all the more difficult to grasp that Edison bought them for a little less than two dollars each, a price that even then would have seemed laughable.
In a letter dated just prior to the shipwreck, the inventor warmly congratulates Bernard Dick, his agent in Europe, on the success of his dealings with the manufacturers in Nuremberg, and goes on to suggest that, if the dolls turn out to be right and suitab…