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]

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

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 " Josefina's Weaving Outfit " RetiredAmerican Girl "felicity" Doll Lot With Lots Of Adorable Items- (camping Lot)American Girl 2011 Kanani Girl Of The Year Nib RetiredAmerican Girl Mckenna DollAmerican Girl Mckenna New In Box In Meet Outfit Store Display Doll Goty 2012American Girl Doll Mckenna~american Girl Doll Elizabeth ~ Stamped Pleasant Company 11 L03 ~ Dry Hair ~Retired American Girl Doll Saige - New In Box - 2013 Doll Of The Year Nib NrfbAmerican Girl Doll KananiKanani? American Girl Retired Doll 2011 Goty Long Hair No Clothes Tan American Girl Saige Doll And Book New In Box Sage 18" Doll!!American Girl Doll "isabelle" Lot Of Mix & Match Clothing & Accessories AdorableNew Nib American Girl Saige Doll With Book And Bonus Dvd New In Box~american Girl Doll Felicity~ Beautiful Condition ~ Stamped Pleasant Company~ American Girl Dolls Kit, Jess And Marisol Tlc LotAmerican Girl Doll KananiAmerican Girl Doll Sonali American Girl Doll Blonde Hair & Green Eyes With American Girl Outfit And ShoesAmerican Girl Doll "just Like Me" Brown Hair, Brown Eyes, Fair Skin Plus ExtrasRetired American Girl Doll Kanani Girl Of The Year 2011 With Paddleboard SetAmerican Girl Doll Light Skin Freckles Brown Hair Blue Eyes In Box + ExtrasAmerican Girl Doll Kaya Pleasant Company- Very PrettyAmerican Girl Doll Mckenna 2012 Girl Of The YearMy American Girl Doll Jly #58 W/box, Colored/ethnic - African American Or Indian~american Girl~pleasant Comapny Doll ~just Like You ~gt 4b ~ Nice Vintage Retired American Girl Doll Sonali Htf Bff Chrissa & Gwen American Girl Doll Pleasant Company Lt Skin Freckles Br Hair Bl Eyes Cute!American Girl Doll, Brunette Hair Brown Eyes, 2 Outfits, Glasses, Comes W/boxHuge American Girl Doll Accessory Lot: Bath Tub, Vanity, Closet, Towels Brush.. American Girl 18” Ruthie Doll & Paperback Book - Perfect - No Box.Retired American Girl Doll Mckenna Girl Of The Year 2012American Girl Bitty Baby Bitty Twin Doll Lot Pleasant Company Original Boy& GirlAmerican Girl Doll Kit's Green Trundle Bed W/ Bedspread, Mattress & Pillows American Girl Mia Doll Of The Year 2008Just Like Me American Girl Doll Light Skin, Layered Blonde Hair And Blue Eyes American Girl My Ag Doll W/ Earrings (blonde Hair/ Blue Eyes) Lt Skin W/socks!Retired American Girl Doll SonaliAmerican Girl Doll Ruthie In Origional Box With ClothesAmerican Girl Kaya With Horse, Her Dog Tatlo, Tepee, And AccessoriesAmerican Girl Doll Nellie - 18 Inch - Retired Pleasant CompanyKit American Girl Doll Box With Extra Outfits And Book Original Pleasant CompanyNicki American Doll And Lot Of Clothes, Bed And AccessoriesAmerican Girl Pleasant Company Doll LotAmerican Girl Doll Mckenna With Bonus AccessoriesAmerican Girl Doll MckennaAmerican Girl "kanani"American Girl My Ag Doll W/ Earrings (blonde Hair/ Grn Eyes) Lt Skin W/socks!American Girl Doll Bitty Baby TwinsAmerican Girl Kit's Scooter Outfit - RetiredLot Of 2 American Girl Doll Dolls Of Today, Brown & Blonde HairAmerican Girl Doll- 18" Doll- American Girl Doll Kanani Akina RetiredMckenna American Girl DollAmerican Girl Doll Just Like You Brown Hair Brown EyesAmerican Girl Of The Year Chrissa 2009 With Box And BookPleasant Company American Girl Samantha *retired* Original Meet Outfit CompleteRetired 2003 American Girl Bitty Twins "play Outfits" Boy & Girl, No Baby DollsAmerican Girl Doll SonaliIsabelle Doll With BookRetired American Girl Doll Kanani Goty 2011