Discovering One of America’s Most Popular Rag Dolls

By Linda White-Francis

Way back in 1993, when I got into the doll world as a magazine writer-I wasn’t even a doll collector. As a child I owned few dolls I treasured enough to hang on to.  Commonly, unless one knew better, most kids didn’t care and I was one of them. I gave little thought to who created that cutely diapered rubber drink and wet baby-doll, or who made one of my favorites when I was 8 years old, the smartly dressed golden-haired young-girl doll I could actually give a permanent wave and buy extra outfits, which my parents never did anyway.  Realistically, I could have cared less about who produced the toys I enjoyed for the moment, and that’s all. I took that part for granted, so it never crossed my mind these companies and their dolls would someday be coveted relics people would treasure. It would be years later before I would come to realize the historical interest and value of these adorable rare and collectible playthings.  Since that time, I have read dozens of books, magazine articles, and internet data, about the thousands of extremely diverse collectible dolls and their makers here in the USA, and around the world. Like the many doll collectors I have interviewed and written about, and had the pleasure of viewing their collections; just like them, I have amassed so many dolls there’s no way I could display all of them without moving out of my house and moving to a mansion.  I remember one particular doll artist who collected the dolls she had created herself. Each precious doll had its own place in the living room. Bewildered and most uncomfortable, I stood for most of the interview-until the dear lady noticed and apologized by putting me on the sofa right in the middle of two large porcelain dolls who sat peering over my shoulders. 

Raggedy Ann and Andy Dolls

In this article, I have chosen to share my coveted collection of Raggedy Ann, and Andy dolls which I have collected from every imaginable source available for over thirty years. Some are antiques, some are vintage, some are handmade, and some are relatively new, meaning the last twenty years.  A great many of my Raggedy’s as I call them were spotted at thrift stores and antique emporiums.

Although Raggedy Ann and Andy are still being sold, it is no less a miracle these colorful cuddly button-eye ragdolls have been delighting children everywhere for over a century, and continue to be a popular novelty for children young and old. Unfortunately, I did not have one as a little girl, and the question I have asked myself for years is Why? In retrospect, I do believe I would have indeed remembered this quirky doll if I had been lucky enough to have one, and may have saved her myself from the great junk heap at the curb, and instead preserved her in that ancient old trunk in the basement with the pasted wallpaper lining inside…where I hid some of my treasures which I have to this day.  

Raggedy Ann is always so perky and bright, and from her cherry-red yarn mop-head, down to her candy-cane stockings, she’s a floppy bundle of happiness ready for hugs and kisses any time of the day.  Her snappy black button eyes, unique triangle nose, and smiley face can put the most unhappy child in a good mood.  She’s an adorable playmate, and from day one, has always been kid-friendly. 

Raggedy Ann and Andy Dolls

Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938), was a legend in his own time; he created Raggedy Ann in 1915, for his beloved, young daughter Marcella. Sadly, Marcella died unexpectedly of an unknown heart problem before the patent was completed that year. Raggedy Andy, Raggedy Ann’s silly brother came along in 1920, and the two have been inseparable ever since.   Gruelle, who was born in Arcola Illinois, was a well-known cartoonist and writer whose zesty humor in cartoon form made him a household name well before Raggedy Ann came on the scene. Revered for his diverse talents, Gruelle wrote and illustrated slews of books and magazine articles, and eventually wrote volumes of hilarious tales about his chaotic popular ragdolls and their encounters, which have also become collector’s items.  The theme was light and maybe predictable but his beloved dolls were always “good people” who displayed what one would want from their own children: kindness, and a caring heart, thus the heart imprinted on their chests that says “I Love You.” Raggedy Ann and Andy were characters in children’s books one could trust, yet with a spirited disposition that generally got them into hot water. Ultimately in the end worked out for the best. 

Through the years, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls have been produced by many companies.  The first year 200 Ann dolls were handmade by Gruelle and his family.  Today they would be extremely valuable! Then the patent was given to the Volland Company, and they continued to produce the dolls which now would include Andy.  That continued until 1934 when the company closed. The dolls went on to be produced by Exposition Toy and Doll Company and Mollye Goldman Doll Outfitters, and eventually Georgene Novelties.  These dolls labeled as such would also be very rare.  Some years later in 1963, the Knickerbocker Company began its long run of production of the iconic dolls until 1983 when the company was sold to Hasbro Toy Company.  At this time, Hasbro has partnered with Arora World Plush Dolls to make a new rendition of the duo.   

Raggedy Ann and Andy Dolls

2 comments

  1. What a lovely collection! I was given a Raggedy Ann by my grandmother 63 years ago and I still have her, as well as a Raggedy Andy she gave to my son when he was a baby. Poor Raggedy Ann has survived so many disasters that she is in a sad state, with patches all over her body and part of a leg gone. But she still has her wonderful “I love you” heart that made her so special to me and will always remind me of my grandmother.

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