Toyland Treasures: Raggedy Ann and Andy

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Raggedy Ann (right) and Raggedy Andy (left) dolls.

Creative Commons, Michael Hanscom, https://bit.ly/3I1Ebg3

John Gruelle was a cartoonist who drew comics for the New York Herald as well as illustrations for various other publishers. One day his young daughter, Marcella, came running into his office with an old rag doll of his mother’s which she had found in their attic. As with most rag dolls, the doll did not have a face. John grabbed one of his cartoon pens and drew a smiling cartoon face onto the fabric. He called the doll “Raggedy Ann,” and handed it back to his daughter. This is the most common story of the conception of Raggedy Ann, but there are many others. Gruelle himself, who loved a good story, confirmed many differing accounts of Raggedy Ann’s history, and it is difficult to tell which events really happened.

Gruelle was often inspired in his writing by watching his daughter play. In 1915, Marcella died tragically from an illness. As she lay sick, Gruelle told her stories about her rag doll to divert her attention from her illness. He then took these stories and published them as books which he later sold along with the dolls.

Around the time of his daughter’s death, Gruelle’s patent for the Raggedy Ann doll was approved, and the family began working on prototypes. The stories and dolls were released simultaneously. They were quite popular, because unlike porcelain dolls, the rag dolls were quite inexpensive. This opened them to a much wider market. Eventually, a sewing pattern was even approved so that people could make their own dolls at home. Raggedy Ann, and later her younger brother Raggedy Andy, continued to be popular toys for children for decades and are still commonly recognizable even over one hundred years later.

Be sure to check out more of our favorite Toyland Treasures!

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