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 Just Like Me Doll Brown Hair Blue EyesLot Of 4 American Girl Dolls Samantha Elizabeth Caroline Justlikeme + Bitty BabyAmerican Girl Doll Beautiful American Girl Doll Rebecca In Need Of Tlc Tan/olive Skin Hazel EyesAmerican Girl Kanani 2011 Doll Of The Year Retired Book Original Box17.5" American Girl 23 F 10 Doll 2810sj Blond Straight Hair W/ Real Smart OutfitLogan Everett~1st 18" Boy Doll Made By American Girl~brand New In Box-fast Ship American Girl Doll Samantha's Retired Steamer Trunk Pleasant Company And ClothesAmerican Girl Doll Brown Curly Hair & Green Eyes, 18" Pre-ownedAmerican Girl Doll Just Like You Truly Me Short Blonde Wavy Hair Green Eyes American Girl Doll - IsabelleAmerican Girl Doll Brown Hair Green Eyes American Girl Lot Of 5 Dolls Felicity And Julie American Girl Doll With Brown EyesAmerican Girl Pleasant Company Molly Mcintire With Some Accessories (pre_mattel)Pleasant Company/american Girl 18" Doll - Brown Hair - Blue Eyes Made In GermanyAmerican Girl DollAmerican Girl Saige 18" Doll American Girl Doll With Clothes18 Inch American Girl Doll, Brown Hair, And Gray Eyes-0225American GirlAmerican Girl Doll Mia Goty 2008 Retired Used TlcAmerican Girl 2011 Doll Of Year: KananiAmerican Girl Pleasant Company Felicity's Winter Story Never Used!!American Girl Bitty Baby Mixed Lot 52 Pieces Clothes, Accessories, PajamasAmerican Girl Doll Felicity Merriman In Rose Garden Gown + Shoes Socks SlipAmerican Girl Doll With Short Blond Hair, Blue Eyes, And Complete Sport OutfitAmerican Girl Doll: Brown Curly Hair, Blue EyesAmerican Girl Felicity DollAmerican Girl Molly Pleasant Company 18” Doll RetiredIsabelle American Girl Doll Girl Of The Year 2014 LotAmerican Girl Doll Grace American Girl Doll Kirsten Retired Birthday Outfit Socks And WreathAmerican Girl Doll Elizabeth ColeLot American Girl Doll ClothesAmerican Girl Grace's French BakeryAmerican Girl Doll 2011 KananiLot Of American Girl Doll Clothing And Accessories (150+ Items)Retired Kanani American Girl DollAmerican Girl Maryellen Doll And Book *distressed Packaging* American Girl Doll Kit Kittredge 18" Doll Blond Hair Blue Eyes FrecklesAmerican Girl Doll Set With Accessories Marie GraceAmerican Girl Doll LotAmerican Girl Doll UsedPleasant Company Doll American Girl Molly 18" AgPleasant Company American Girl Felicity Summer Story DressAmerican Girl Doll,"truly Me" Doll, Green Eyes, Original Ag Clothes, Very Nice! American Girl Doll LotAmerican Girl Doll UsedHuge American Girl Doll Lot Filled W/doll,bed,pet,sofa+more-1 Of A Kind LotAmerican Girl Doll Of The Year KananiAmerican Girl Doll Kanani - 2011 Doll Of The Year (retired)American Girl Doll Of The Year 2013 Saige Copeland In Original OutfitAmerican Girl Doll Lindsey Retired Girl Of The Year 2001-pleasant Company GermanRetired: American Girl Pleasant Co. Doll Nellie O'malley - Friend Of SamanthaAmerican Girl Doll UsedAmerican Girl Mia DollAmerican Girl Doll Brown Hair & Eyes, 18" Pre-ownedLot 2 American Girl 18" Dolls Addy Julie For Parts Or Repair Pleasant CompanyAmerican Girl Kit Kittridge, Ruthie, Desk, Scooter And Dog, Accessories