Ahh-Mazing “AHA!” Discovery for December 2017: Helen Fox Trowbridge, a 1914 Sister of Santa Claus

by Dana Gourley on December 2, 2017

in Ahh-Mazing Discoveries, Holiday, Inventified

Background Note: Inventor Rob Gourley is asked on a regular basis how he could have discovered the gaseous state of water (Dioxytetrahydride Gas). He typically starts by saying he comes from an inventor family. Rob is turning 70 years young this coming year. I would like to spotlight in the coming months, those exemplary individuals that shaped his childhood experiences and encouraged him to expand his thinking beyond school textbooks. Rob was adopted into this “Inventified Family”. His father, Rob Sr., who was always supportive of his son, would say… “Environment triumphed over genetics”.


I chose one of Rob’s grandmothers, Helen Fox Trowbridge, as the influential person to spotlight for our December 2017 AHA!. It is an appropriate holiday choice since Helen was named by The New York Herald in 1914 as one of the “Sisters of Santa Claus”.  Helen was the lead sculptress and designer of doll heads for the E.I. Horsman Company between 1909 and 1936. When she left Horsman Company, she started her own venture of making and selling dollhouse accessories.

Helen captured the essence of sweet-faced children by designing dolls that reminded parents of their own infants and children.  Her six children, including Rob’s first adoptive mother, Neeler, were the inspiration for her to design rosy-cheeked cherub-faced dolls. Helen is credited in designing uniquely American-looking dolls that ended the reign of German dolls for American kids.  

In her professional career, Helen also sculpted and designed the faces of dolls replicating two American icons – the Campbell Soup kids. Images of more dolls designed by Helen Trowbridge can be found on Google including the one to the right of the Campbell Soup kids.

Even in retirement, Helen continued making crafts. Rob Sr. admired the ability of his mother-in-law to delicately create tiny items for dolls such as flower arrangements and dishes. His favorite was a Christmas ornament that has baby Jesus laying in a bottle cap! I feel privileged that we own one of the ornaments plus a wee potted plant and a small blond-haired doll (all shown in the photo above). I like to think the latter was inspired by her grandson, Rob Jr. It is a certainly possible since Rob as a young boy visited his grandparents both at their winter home in Cornwall, CT. and their summer home in Yelping Hill, CT. Rob has wonderful childhood memories playing and exploring the nearby woods and streams. Helen passed in 1970 and was survived by four of her children and twelve grandchildren.

Another of Helen’s twelve grandchildren is Helen H. of New York wrote:“Hi Dana and Rob. Your account of HFT is just lovely, and the Campbell Soup Kids you found capture some of her best work … I completed a dollhouse from a kit that I had started 30 years ago and filled it with dollhouse furniture collected over the years, some of it HFT’s.  My grandson, Max who is 2 1/2,  was especially charmed. He loves tiny things.

I have ‘Baby Jesus in a Bottle Cap’ on my fridge. Hope your Christmas is joyous. Love, Helen”

Do you have an Ahh-mazing “AHA!” Discovery to share?

Email inquiries@aquanew.com. This can be any idea or endeavor that may help others in their own revelation or better quality of life. Alternatively, want to nominate someone with special skills of creativity and innovation? Let us know!

CLICK HERE to read all of our past “AHA!” Discoveries.

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