I love to collect things when I am researching a story. Ephemera, old newspapers, books, postcards, and magazines are fascinating for their content and worldview, for better or worse. I started researching WWI after seeing a vintage poster from after the war, which read, “Toys Made by Our Wounded Soldiers.”

During WWI, toys were made to bolster support for the war. Stores sold board games like In the Trenches, aero-planes, U-boats, combat ships, and children’s adventure books about the ongoing war. I came across this doll and had to buy it. He was made in America somewhere between 1914 and 1918. He has a soft cloth body, and his head is made of sawdust, glue, and other materials. He wears a khaki uniform and russet brown leather boots.

The seller said the doll’s face had been repainted long ago. At first glance, I thought the doll had a very young baby face. As I looked closer, his expression appeared cautious, weary, and sad—as if he had seen war. Some days, he seems to be lost. I keep him by my desk for inspiration.