The Reinet House in Graaff Reinet is a Cape Dutch building completed in 1812. It was initially built as a parsonage, but now serves as a museum. Other than the collections on display, visitors can marvel at one of the largest living grape vines in the garden, that was planted in 1870 and continues to bear fruit.
The Laubscher Doll Collection is one of the main attractions of the museum. Anna Laubscher began making dolls in 1915 when there were none to be found in Graaff-Reinet over Christmas.
Dolls were not commercially manufactured in South Africa before the second half of this century with the exception of the Laubscher doll of Graaff Reinet and the Flora doll of Somerset East. From the end of the 19th century until the outbreak of the First World War, most dolls were imported from Germany to South Africa.
When the war broke out in 1914 the importation of dolls to South Africa stopped. The supply of dolls in South African shops, especially the smaller and less expensive ones dwindled until they were unobtainable. This lack of supply led to the manufacture of dolls in South Africa.
The creation of the first Laubscher doll took place in 1915 when Anna Laubscher was unable to buy a doll locally as a Christmas present for her four year old niece. The Laubscher family lived in Donkin Street in Graaff Reinet at the time and Mr Laubscher, a creative and innovative man himself, was the head of a family whose members had many artistic skills. Mrs. Laubscher was known to be an excellent seamstress and the eldest daughter called Annie had studied art and had herself a small studio and art school in Graaff Reinet.
So it was not really unusual that Mr Laubscher suggested, that the family should make a doll for their niece, Marie.
The inspiration for this doll came from an American cloth doll, that was owned by Joan Strange a young visitor to Graaff Reinet.