Posted in Dolls

by Ruby Lane

Calamity Jiddle, Howard “Biff” Boodle and Bunson Bernie were among the first Liddle Kiddles produced by Mattel.

At the industry trade show Toy Fair, in 1966, Mattel debuted one of the biggest sensations in the world of small dolls. Liddle Kiddles would become a phenomenon that had a ripple effect on the dolls of the day. These tiny dolls packed in big fun with their sweet faces, removable clothing and cleverly designed accessories. The name Liddle Kiddle was pulled from the phrase “little kids” and the concept behind the dolls was to emulate the real children seen playing in neighborhoods across the USA.

The initial ca. 1966-67 offering of 10 characters included 9 dolls available in all stores plus one Sears exclusive. Stock numbers 3501-3509 were Bunson Bernie with his firetruck, Howard “Biff” Boodle with his wagon, Liddle Diddle in her crib, Lola Liddle with her sailboat, Babe Biddle with her car, Calamity Jiddle with her rocking horse, Florence Niddle with her doll carriage, Greta Griddle with her table and chairs, and Millie Middle with her sandbox. The Sears Exclusive was #3510, Beat-a-Diddle, with her guitar.

The first 9 Kiddles along with some of their accessory products are seen in this ad from the 1966 JC Penney catalog.

This first series of Kiddles ranged between 2.75″ (without their shoes on) to 3.5″ in height. They were made of soft vinyl. Their wire armature bodies and swivel necks allowed them to be posed in all sorts of cute activities. Their hair was rooted and could be brushed. 

The heads for this first series were made from four different sculpts, three of which were designed by the renowned doll artist Martha Armstrong-Hand. The variations in their painted features and differing hair colors and styles made each character seem like an individual. The dolls were packaged on blister-pack cards and each came with their toys, hairbrush and a Kiddle Komic which had stories about the little friends and their adventures.

A variety of Kiddle designs and accessories were sold through the 1968 Sears catalog including the Liddle Kiddle Talking House and a Sears exclusive Baby Liddle.

The public was enchanted by these dolls and more were soon added to the line. Eventually, kiddles in sizes ranging from just .75″ to 4″ were available. The various series were developed to include Storybook Kiddles, Kiddle Kolonges, Lucky Locket Kiddles, and other Jewelry Kiddles. There were Kiddle N’ Kars, Tea Party Kiddles, Skediddle Kiddles, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Kiddles, Kola Kiddles, Lollipop Kiddles, Storybook Sweetheart Kiddles, Animiddles, Holiday Kiddles and even Kosmic Kiddles expanding the world of Kiddle play to a universe of fun!

Shirley Skediddle was part of the Skediddle series. Debuting in 1968 these dolls were 4″ tall and had an internal push toy mechanism which allowed them to walk and wave their hand.
Santa from the Holiday series and the Animiddles were barely 2″ tall but well detailed.
The Kiddle Klub house was one of many play structures available for the Kiddles. There were also Kiddle playhouse sets, carrying cases, and even sets of diminutive extra clothing were available for these dolls. 
SweetPea is from the Kiddle Kolonge series which came in colorful plastic perfume bottles.

The popularity of the Kiddles led to an explosion of other tiny dolls by the other doll companies of the day. Uneeda doll company’s Pee Wees, Hasbro”s Dolly Darlings, and Remco’s Finger Dings were just a few of the dolls that aimed for a piece of the miniature doll market.

Whitman Publishing produced several paper doll sets of the Kiddles.

Although the dolls were immensely popular with the public, economic conditions in the early 1970s led to the demise of the line. Increasing concerns about world oil shortages led to trouble related to availability and pricing of petroleum-based vinyl, leading to Mattel’s decision to retire the Kiddles even though new concepts were on the board and ready to go into production. For those of us collecting Kiddles today these sweet little (or should that be Liddle?) dolls evoke happy images of a time when children played on neighborhood streets and no adventure was beyond imagination.

Bibliography

Paris Langford Liddle Kiddles. Paducah: Collector Books, 1995

Tamela Storm & Debra Van Dyke Liddle Kiddles™ Dolls & Accessories. Paducah: Collector Books, 1985

Author – Linda Edward

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