The daughters of settlers crossing the nation in covered wagons carrying handmade rag dolls. Easy to make from pieces of scraps, Mom could stitch on a face, make a little dress, and it was ready to go. And then…industrialization entered. And dolls, along with the rest of our history, would be forever changed.
Kewpie Dolls: In 1909, Rose O’Neill, a writer, artist and illustrator, dreamed of an idea for a new comic strip. She dreamed of cherub-faced characters. She described the characters as “a sort of little round fairy whose one idea is to teach people to be merry and kind at the same time.” Called Kewpies, derived from Cupid, the comic was first printed in Ladies’ Home Journal in the December 1909 issue.
As the characters became more popular, O’Neill began illustrating paper dolls, called Kewpie Kutouts. In 1912, a German company began producing bisque Kewpie dolls. A hundred years later, they are still in production by various companies and out of different materials. Kewpie’s were used in product advertising, including promotions for Jell-), Colgate, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and Sears. A multitude of other household items were created using the Kewpie image: dishware, rattles, soap, salt and pepper shakers, coloring books, and stationery.
Shirley Temple Dolls: With the popularity of Shirley Temple in the early to mid-1930’s, a doll in her image was inevitable. With her adoring fans multiplying rapidly, especially after Stand Up and Cheer, and Little Miss Marker, the Ideal Toy Corporation released news of their new Shirley Temple doll in October, 1934. The first prototypes were of composition and later versions in vinyl. In the 1990’s several porcelain collectible versions were produced. Shirley Temple has also been represented in paper dolls.
Patsy Dolls: Patsy dolls were first produced in 1928, by Effanbee. Production continued through the 1930’s. In 1947, Noma Electronics, the new owner of Effanbee produced several re-issued Patsy and Patsy family dolls. Production lapsed until the 1970’s when a few reproduction Patsy dolls were made.
The classic Patsy doll stands 14 inches tall. Others in the Patsy family vary in size. Her little sister, Patseytte is 9 inches tall, while Wee Patsyette is just over 5 inches tall. Patsy Baby is 10 inches, and Patsy Jr is 11 inches.
Then, the family starts increasing in size. Patsy Ann stands at 19 inches tall, while Patsy Lou and Patsy Ruth run from 22 to 26 inches tall. The tallest doll, Patsy Mae, stands around 29 to 30 inches tall. And then…just to keep things confusing, there’s Patsy Joan, Patsy Jr., Tiny Patsyette Baby and a brother named Skippy. Have I missed any? Possibly.
Lots of Patsy dolls in the world. All I know is that they’re my favorite. I have my mom’s Patsy doll she got when she was a little girl. The story of little Ona Mae getting her prized Patsy doll is in Wash on Monday. And, of course, when I was little I got a Patsy doll too, a Patsy Mae, which I still have.
I know there’s more. Whole books are written on the subject, so we’ll end here. Is there a favorite doll in your past? What was its name? Do you have any treasured memories of a doll who shared your world growing up?