Mattel’s debut of Barbie® in 1959 caused a sensation that radically changed the landscape of the world of play dolls, causing numerous companies to rush to get on the bandwagon with products of their own to rival Barbie® and her friends.
The Ideal Toy Co. which by this time, had already had a number of solid successes in the toy world, was not to be left on the sidelines and developed a product line of their own to compete with a host of full-figure fashion dolls in the 11.5″ trend. But Ideal took a fresh approach, bringing out a doll that was imagined to look more like the majority of American teenage girls. Though Barbie® and her crowd were teen-agers enjoying the pastimes associated with that world, they had a definite leaning to the world of high fashion and adulthood. Tammy was more middle-class, baby-boomer in concept with a less mature body shape and youthful facial design than her counterparts. Even her name, “Tammy” immediately conjured up images of wholesome vitality and innocence, helped no doubt by the popular series of books written by Cid Ricketts Sumner beginning in 1949. These stories, supported by a series of movies from made from 1957 into the 1960s had already established a sweet, girl-next-door image in the minds of the public and Ideal cleverly used that impression to their advantage with the doll line.
“Tammy, the doll you love to dress” debuted at the Toy Fair in New York in 1962. The 12″ doll and her wardrobe were rushed through development to make it to Toy Fair that year. Many store buyers, cued to the concerns some parents expressed over Barbie’s figure and makeup, found a viable alternative in Ideal’s new doll. The first version of Tammy had a hard vinyl body and soft vinyl head and arms. Her rooted blonde hair was either a short layer cut or a bit longer with curls at the shoulders and her blue painted eyes were side-glancing. Eventually Tammy could be found with a wide range of hair colors, though medium golden blonde remained predominate.
Ideal created an extensive marketing campaign around Tammy. Eventually contracting with Hanna-Barbera to sponsor a block of Saturday morning television shows featuring Tammy commercials. The company would go on to license the dolls to be made in Canada (made both by Ideal and by Reliable), in Italy, and Japan. Tammy also seems to have been the inspiration for the Sindy line of dolls in Britain.
In 1963 a family for Tammy was introduced which included her Father, Mother, older brother Ted and younger sister Pepper. It’s interesting to note that unlike Remco’s Littlechap family, Tammy’s parents had no names or back stories, leaving the child free to imagine their own personalities for each member. The family also acquired a number of accessories including a car, a house, doll cases, furniture, and even a catamaran.
1964 saw the new Pos’ n Tammy, Ted and Pepper. These dolls had a redesigned body which had a wire armature added to the soft vinyl rams and legs so that they could be bent into a variety of positions. 1964 also saw the introduction of two new characters in Tammy’s universe. She acquired a new little brother named Pete and Pepper gained a new friend named Patti. Patti was sold as an exclusive through Montgomery Ward’s 1964 and ’65 Christmas catalogs. The full line continued to grow with outfits and accessories and Ideal was selling millions of these dolls.
In 1965 Tammy got another redesign, this time her body was slimmed down, lost half an inch in height and her new head sculpt and hairstyle was more in keeping with the new fashion trends of the time. This new model was called Grown-Up Tammy. One can’t help but wonder if this was also an attempt to make Tammy more compatible with the array of clothing and accessories available from other companies. This author remembers a certain level of frustration that the original Tammy could not borrow clothing from her Barbie dolls. This new model also appeared in an African-American version. Pepper underwent a similar redesign at this time becoming slimmer.
1965 also saw even more new characters added to the line. Glamour Misty, the Miss Clairol Doll was Tammy’s new friend. Misty had high-heel feet, green eyes and came with accessories which allowed the owner to color her hair with special markers. Tammy found a boyfriend in the 12″ Bud doll, and 9″ Dodi and 8″Salty added to Pepper’s group of friends. By this time there were over 400 items included in the line.
With all of the additions released in 1965 it seems a bit strange that in 1966 Tammy and her family and friends were no longer advertised in the Ideal Toy Company’s line-up. The curtain was drawn on this brief society of dolls leaving us with a fleeting glimpse into a very specific moment in middle-America’s history embodied in the Tammy family of dolls.
Author – Linda Edward
John Axe Tammy™ and Her Family of Dolls. Grantsville: Hobby House Press, 1995
Judith Izen Collector’s Guide to Ideal Dolls. Paducah: Collector Books, 2005
Sears catalogs 1963 & 1964
Spiegel catalog 1965
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