Combining play with learning, a love of dolls with a love of history, American Girl dolls were first developed in 1986 by the Pleasant Company, which was founded by Pleasant Rowland, a former teacher who had published text books for children.

American Dolls are 18 inches in size with soft bodies and vinyl heads, arms, and legs. Each doll represents a young girl living in an important time in American history and comes with a book that gives a historically accurate account of her life. Other books featuring her adventures and experiences are sold separately.

The Pleasant Company initially released just three American Girl dolls: Kirsten Larson, a pioneer who grew up in Minnesota in 1854; Samantha Parkinson, who lived with her wealthy grandmother in 1904; and Molly McIntyre, a child of 1944 whose father cared for injured soldiers overseas during the war.

Soon, more dolls were added, such as Felicity Merriman, who lived in Virginia in 1774; Kaya, a Nez Perce girl from 1764; Addy Walker, who lived in 1864 and, with her mother, escaped from a life of slavery; and Nellie O’Malley, an orphan girl from New York circa 1906.

American Girl dolls continue to be popular today, and new girls are continuously added to the line. For example, Rebecca Rubin, a Jewish girl who lived with her family in New York in 1914, was released in 2009.

In 1995, the Just Like You line was unveiled. Just Like You dolls were similar to the original American Girl dolls, only more modern in clothing style, and their eye and hair color, skin tone, and facial features could be customized to look like the girl purchasing them.

American Doll collectors seek out more than just dolls. Life-size replicas of the clothing worn by the three original American Girl dolls became available in 1988, including accessories such as hats and jewelry. Other costumes were added as new dolls were released, and for a brief period in the early 1990s, sewing patterns were available...

In 1991, the company offered a Pastimes Subscription package, a one-year subscription that provided activity books and crafts kits representative of the types of activities in which the original three dolls, Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly, participated. As more dolls were released, Pastimes Subscriptions became available for each.

Other collectible items include trading cards, CD-ROMs, puzzles, figurines, Christmas ornaments, sewing patterns for the dolls’ costumes, and maps showing the towns in which the girls lived. Even the company’s giveaway items have proven collectible—in 2002, baseball uniforms made to fit the dolls were handed out to girls at certain Major League Baseball games. Pleasant also created special items such as snowglobes, backpacks, and outfits that could only be obtained by visiting American Girl Place in Chicago.

Rowland sold the Pleasant Company to Mattel (the same company that owns Barbie) in 1998, and the dolls continue to be made in a high-quality fashion today.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Complete Guide to American Girl Doll Collecting

Complete Guide to American Girl Doll Collecting

Whether you're a fan of American Girl dolls or simply remember them from your childhood and want to reminisce, this… [read review or visit site]

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

American Girl DollAmerican Girl Doll Strawberry Blonde Blue Eyes Outfit Included18" American Girl Doll Long Blonde Hair, Blue Sleep Eyes (no Accessories)18" American Girl Doll ~ Girl Of The Year 2014 Isabelle In Box ~ Free ShippingLot Of (2) American Girl Dolls-& Accesories-shoes-dresses-and More-American Girl Doll Kanani 2011 Girl Of The Year RetiredAmerican Girl Kirsten's Retired Plaid Promise Dress, Shawl, Ribbons & BookAmerican Girl Doll LotOld Used American Girl DollAmerican Girl Lanie Holland Brunette Hair Green Eyes 18" Soft-body Bundle Accs.American Girl Doll Of The Year 2007 Nicki Fleming Nikki NickyMy American Girl DollAmerican Girl Kirsten's Retired Checked On The Trail Dress, Shwal, Ribbons, BookAmerican Girl Doll Nicki Girl Of The Year 2007 Good ConditionAmerican Doll Lot Of 3 Dolls & 4 Baby Dolls Twins Nice & Clean! Pleasant Company Samantha Parkington Doll (late 1980's Edition W/ White Body)American Girl DollAmerican Girl Kirsten's Retired Midsummer Outfit - Complete W/ BasketAmerican Girl Dolls Lot Of 7 (6 18" Full Size, 1 Bitty Baby)Lot American Girl Doll Accessories Furniture Clothes Carrier Cheer Dog HugeAmerican Girl Doll CarolineHuge American Girl Doll Samantha Lot American Girl Kirsten's Retired Meet Outfit W/ Accessories - CompleteAmerican Girl Doll Just Like Me Jlm Looks Great! Brown Hair And EyesAmerican Girl Doll 18" - Blonde Blue Eyes Freckles - Kit?American Girl Doll Felicity, Pleasant Company! Guc! Please Adopt Me!American Girl Doll 2011 Marie-grace, Blue Eyes, Long Dark Hair, (please Read)American Girl Kit Kittredge 18" DollAa Ethnic Truly Me My American Girl Doll 18" W/ Outfit Brown Hair Brown EyesAmerican Girl Kirsten's Retired Swedish Dirndl, Kerchief & CarpetbagAmerican Girl Kirsten's Retired Summer Dress, Straw Hat, & BootsAmerican Girl Isabel Girl Of The Year Sandals Bracelet Pink Hair ExtensionAmerican Girl Elizabeth (felicity): Tea Dress, Shoes, Lace Cap & Trading CardsAmerican Girl Doll Of The Year 2012 Mckenna Plus PajamasAmerican Girl Isabelle And Mckenna Collections Huge Lot Of Clothes/access NwotAmerican Girl Sage Doll 2013 Retired Girl Of The YearAmerican Girl Light Skin, Brown Eyes, Brown Hair Girl #13, Pretty, No X!American Girl Kirsten's Retired Friendship Quilt, Kit And Her Rag Doll, SariAmerican Girl Elizabeth/felicty: Summer Dress, Hat,cap, Ribbon & Darling Shoes!American Girl Kanani Aloha Outfit Capris Shirt Sunglasses Bracelet Set Doll18" American Girl Isabelle Doll Girl Of The Year 2014 + Book + AccessoriesAmerican Girl Doll Isabelle With Clothes, Shoes And Accessories LotAmerican Girl Grace Bakery Kitchen Items Huge Unique Lot Cute - New American Girl Doll - Blue Eyes - 2011American Girl Boy Doll Blonde Hair Freckles Blue Eyes MinipparelAmerican Girl Samantha Lot Of Retired Outfits/accessoriesAmerican Girl Kit's Retired Tree House Outfit W/ Book - CompleteAmerican Girl Doll Mckenna W/boxAmerican Girl Doll Lea Clark Retired American Girl Doll Marie Grace & Acc Nrfb Nib Hat Fan Locket New OrleansAmerican Girl Original White Bodied Kirsten For Facial Tlc RepairsAmerican Girl Doll 18" - Curly Blonde Blue Eyes FrecklesAmerican Girl Kirsten's Retired Work Dress, Ribbons & Two-tone BootsBrand New Retired American Girl Marie Grace 18" Doll With Book & Accessories NibAmerican Girl Bitty Baby Twins Boy & Girl Brown Hair (includes Outfits)Retired American Girl Doll 2008 Mia Plus 2 OutfitsAmerican Girl Doll 18" Julie Pleasant Company Tlc With AccessoriesAmerican Girl Doll Brown Hair Brown EyesPleasant Company Doll Lot Plus Bag Of Clothes American Girl 2013 Doll Of The Year Saige Retired