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 Doll Brown Hair Green Eyes Needs WorkAmerican Girl Of The Year 2011-kananiCollection Of American Girl Dolls Molly Felicity Kirsten Lot W/clothesAmerican Girl Just Like You Doll Lot Retired American Girl Doll Kanani, Goty 2011, In Meet Outfit American Girl Chrissa Doll 18"American Girl Doll - Strawberry Blonde W Blue Eyes & Freckles 18"American Girl Doll Chrissa 18" Retired, Goty 2009, Blue Eyes/brown Hair GucAmerican Girl Jly Doll 18"American Girl Lot 18" Doll Brown Hair Eyes Kayas Horse Bathtub Clothes BootsAmerican Girl Doll Like Me 013 Tan Skin Shoulder Hair Black, Brown Eyes 18 InchHuge American Girl Ag Clothing Lot Dresses Topps Shoes $1,000 New Retail Used !American Girl Nellie Doll 18"Kanani American Girl Doll Of The Year 2011American Girl Doll - Mckenna And BookAmerican Girl Jess Doll 18"American Girl DollAmerican Girl Kanani Doll 18"Retired American Girl Doll Elizabeth In Original Box With Accessories American Girl Pleasant Company Felicity Doll 18"American Girl Doll Bitty Baby Twins Pair Brunette Hair Brown Eyes Set Boy GirlAmerican Girl Pleasant Company Kirsten Doll 18"American Girl Doll Food LotKirsten Doll Pleasant Co./american GirlAmerican Girl Doll Clothes Outfit Older Lot American Girl Bitty Baby Twins 3g 3b In Box With Outfits, High Chair, & ExtrasAmerican Girl Doll Julie Albright In Original Outfit EucRare American Girl Felicity's Little Baby Sister Polly Cradle & Doll Guc RetiredAmerican Girl Pleasant Company Molly Doll 18"American Girl Doll JulieAmerican Girl Samantha RetiredAmerican Girl Samantha Doll Brand New Sealed 18"American Girl Kaya Doll And Accessories American Girl Emily Doll 18"American Girl-ivy Ling Doll, Original Outfit, Retired, Pierced Ears, Purse EucAmerican Girl Doll "elizabeth" W/original Box ~book~clothes~shoes~etc.~ RetiredAmerican Girl Doll, Bitty Baby Twins, RetiredIvy Ling American Girl Doll - Used Condition - Original Outfit With BlemishesAmerican Girl Ruthie DollAmerican Girl Doll Kirsten's On The Trail Outfit/set-pleasant Company-retired!American Girl Kit Kittredge 18" Doll With OutfitAmerican Girl Bitty Baby Twin Clothing Lot, Accessories And Books 32 ItemsPleasant Company American Girl Kirsten Quilt And Quilt Kit Retired With TagsAmerican Girl Bitty Baby Twin Boy! Great Condition Retired!!American Girl- Felicity's Needlework Kit And Frame- RetiredUsed American Girl Doll Vanity Bathroom Sink In Original BoxAmerican Girl Doll Sweet Treats Bakery Case And Accessories RetiredAmerican Girl Doll Kaya (kaya'aton'my)American Girl Samantha 18" In Meet Outfit + Book Retired EucAmerican Girl Samantha Doll Brand New Sealed 18"American Girl Kit's 1934 Scooter Outfit RetiredAmerican Girl Doll Vanity, Manicure Table & StoolAmerican Girl Doll Meet Josefina Pleasant Company W/ Book & Clothing AccessoriesAmerican Girl Doll Samantha Middy Sailor Oufit Ex. ConditionAmerican Girl Doll Julie - Mint Condition! Full Size!American Girl Doll Kit Reds Fan Baseball OutfitAmerican Girl Tlc Kaya Historical Native American Doll Ag 18"Beautiful 18" American Girl Doll Samantha Pleasant CompanyAmerican Girl Bitty Twins African American Boy & Girl Original ClothesAmerican Girl Doll Kit Kittredge