Woman uses dolls to recreate history

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 7, 1999

The irony isn’t lost on Sandra Doherty. A hundred years to the day after Britton Wheeler’s cherubic face appeared in an item in the New Orleans newspaper, the Natchez youngster is being reborn in the form of a new collectible doll.

&uot;I just thought the timing was so interesting,&uot; said Doherty, who earlier this summer began creating her collectible dolls.

Based on Natchez’s children – from participants in the beloved Maypole tableaux in the Confederate Pageant to recreations of Wheeler and Annie Pritchartt – Doherty’s dolls are the first to capture Natchez’s history and characters in lifelike form.

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&uot;I have a love of art, a love of creativity and a love of dolls,&uot; said Doherty, whose creations are being marketed under her new business, Sandi Dolls and Accessories.

She gained inspiration for her dolls in part from the Victorian children featured in the extensive Norman Collection of photographs. Owned by Dr. Thomas H. and Joan Gandy, the collection has been the subject of several books and exhibits, and it is two of the children captured in those Victorian era portraits that Doherty used for the Wheeler and Middleton dolls.

She stumbled upon the 100-year-old newspaper clipping by accident when she went to Green Leaves in search of another photograph of Wheeler.

&uot;I couldn’t see how his outfit was put together in the picture (in the book Norman’s Natchez),&uot; Doherty said.

While there, she found the Sept. 3, 1899, clipping, which shows a sketch of the 4-year-old Wheeler saying &uot;His home is at Natchez, Miss. Britton does not go to school yet, but he hopes to soon, and means to study hard and grow up to be somebody.&uot;

And while she hasn’t started marketing her dolls yet – that will come soon, she says – Doherty said she sees the timing as an ironic rebirth of sorts for Britton Wheeler.