Raggedy Ann has been a beloved doll and literary character for over 100 years. Her face has graced countless story books, coloring books, paper dolls, toys, radios, canned goods, and posters about Diphtheria and Smallpox vaccinations. Raggedy Ann and her brother, Raggedy Andy, have starred in their own animated films, and Raggedy Ann has flown as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She was even involved in a lawsuit, Gruelle v. Molly-‘Es Doll Outfitters, 94 F.2d 172 (3d Cir. 1937)
Raggedy Ann, the doll with the heart, has been immortalized in Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann Stories since 1918. Noted Raggedy expert Patricia Hall has written in her book Raggedy Ann and Andy; History and Legend (2015), that there are many legends blended into the doll’s history, but we do know she is the creation of political cartoonist Johnny Gruelle, born in Arcola, IL in 1880. He died in 1938, about one year after he won a lawsuit against Molly E’s dolls and Molly Goldman. Her name may have been inspired by two poems, “The Raggedy Man,” and “Little Orphant Annie” [Annie later enjoyed her own comic strips, musicals, books, films, dolls, and other memorabilia].
Marcella herself appears in the stories, and later has her own series. Other dolls include two penny dolls, The Camel with Wrinkled Knees, Beloved Belindy, and Uncle Clem, the Scots doll.
Gruelle’s wife Myrtle stated that it was her husband who found an old rag doll in his mother’s attic and later used it to write stories and in his comic strips. He apparently did paint a face for it. Hall discounts the legend that the doll and stories were created as tributes to Marcella, who did die at 13 from an infected vaccination.
Gruelle took out a patent for the doll in 1915, see both the original patents for Raggedy Ann and for Andy below. At first, Gruelle and his family made the dolls for P.F. Volland , later The Non-Breakable Toy Company in Muskegon, MI made the dolls as the Gruelle family could not produce the dolls to meet the demand. Gruelle’s son remembered going to a candy shop to buy candy hearts for the first dolls so that they would have the same heart as the Raggedy Ann of the stories, but this is another legend that historians can’t seem to confirm. Both Ann and her brother, Andy, have painted hearts that say “I Love You.” Talking Raggedy Ann from the 90s repeats the phrase.
Other companies to make the dolls include Georgene Novelties, Knickerbocker, Applause, Hasbro, and Aurora. McCall’s sold many patterns for making the dolls, and other independent artists and folk artists have created many versions, including primitive dolls. Hallmark made many small dolls and Raggedy Ann products in the early 70s, and occasionally, they still produce Christmas ornaments. Raggedy Anns made of clay, dough, rubber, bisque, vinyl, even bowling pins, have appeared over the years. The dolls have also been drawn by other artists for storybooks, animation, and coloring books.
In 2002, Raggedy Ann was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. In 2009, the Raggedy Ann Museum in Arcola closed, and the Raggedy Ann Festival, once an annual event, ended. Much of the collection went to the Strong National Museum of Play, with some items staying in nearby Rockome Gardens Theme Park. Arcola has a large Amish community and is a great place for Amish handicrafts, dolls, and antiques, as well as Raggedy Ann memorabilia. When the museum was open, you could buy dolls signed by Gruelle’s Granddaughter, Joni, also an artist.
Raggedy Ann and Andy are still going strong; this blogger even has neighbors named Ann and Andy! She also appeared as Raggedy Ann in a fantastic costume her mother sewed with a mask by Collegeville. The doll is a symbol of kindness and gentle personality, nasty Annabelle rumors notwithstanding. She is an icon of American popular culture and children’s literature, and her popularity will go on for another 100 years at least.
About the Guest Blog Author: Ellen Tsagaris has collected dolls since she was three years old. She has made dolls, priced dolls, repaired, dressed, and studied dolls. Besides dolls, she has studied other antiques and collectibles at museums, antiques shows, auctions, and flea markets since she was in grade school. She has set up at craft shows and presented papers on dolls and their history at the Midwest Modern Language Association. She is the author of several articles on dolls that have appeared in Doll Reader, National Doll World, Doll Designs, International Doll World, Hope and Glory, Doll News, Adventures, and The Western Doll Collector. She is the author of two books about dolls, Bibliography of Doll and Toy Sources and With Love from Tin Lizzie; A History of Metal Heads, Metal Dolls, Mechanical Dolls, and Automatons. An active blogger, she features two blogs about dolls, Dr. E’s Doll Museum, and Doll Museum. She lectures on dolls for various organizations and has displayed part of her collection in museums.
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