In their flashiest inaugural attire
By Randy Beaudette
In a modest home, on a quiet street in southwest Denver, there is a museum of sorts. It’s not a collection of thimbles, spoons, or stamps from around the world. It is a collection of dolls, but this is not just any ordinary doll collection. It is a collection of Americas First Ladies adorned in their best and flashiest inaugural attire. It is the doll collection of Pat and Ben Pitt, no relation to Brad.
In 1984 Pat started on this particular journey by taking a porcelain doll class at the Platt Park Recreation Center. The first of the “First Ladies” Pat created was Rose Cleveland, the sister of Grover Cleveland. Then she thought it would be a good idea to honor all the First Ladies from Martha Washington to then Nancy Reagan. Since then she has created them all up to Michelle Obama. Husband Ben, in good humor, wondered before the 2016 election, “What do we do if Hillary wins? Will we have to make a doll of Bill? And if so, would we have to change from the First Ladies to First Spouses Collection?” Well, we all know what happened, so that is currently not an issue.
Mrs. Pitt starts off by casting the faces, bodies and appendages in her home studio and fires them in a kiln located in the family basement. The eyes are added, the pieces are meticulously hand painted, and real human hair is used in the wig, no synthetic hair for these masterpieces. The gowns, coats and even the hats are then hand-sewn down to the last detail. Purses, jewelry, and other accessories are fabricated and added to complete the creation. Ben assembles the stands and the one of a kind masterpiece is placed in a museum style display case that Ben built in the basement. That’s where Ben and Pat, a few friends and a stray reporter or two can marvel at the works of this very talented lady.
As we walked around the display area, Ben explains the process of casting the dolls and the details that go into these creations, along with the various facts and stories about the different First Ladies. All the time, he’s shadowed by the couple’s very own Secret Service, a standard poodle called Remington.
For example, Ben explained that Julia Grant was cross-eyed, so is her likeness. Martha Washington always greeted her guests sitting down, so that’s why she’s the only doll in the collection that is seated. All the others are displayed standing. The Washington doll is also the most decorated. Fine embroidery adorns her dress and her purse has her name on it. Now we don’t really know if Martha Washington strutted around town with her name on her purse, but it is a nice touch. Also, the title of First Lady is not always the wife of the President. The title is usually given to the host of the Inauguration Dinner. It could be a sister or cousin of the new or reelected President.
Soon it will be time for Pat, Ben, and Remington to make the trek down the basement stairs to the studio and create a doll of the newest doll, First Lady Melania Trump. And this, just like all the others, will be a stunning creation by the First Lady of the First Ladies.
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