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    

18"american Girl 2011 Doll Of The Year Kanani-rare-expiredAmerican Girl Doll Lot Lot Of 3 American Girl Dolls Chrissa, Kit & Jly -free Kanani Guitar & ClothesKanani American Girl Doll: Great ConditionAmerican Girl Large Lot Of Clothes And Accessories (play Only Condition Or Tlc)American Girl Doll Mckenna Doty 2012 With Practice And Rhythmic Gymnastic OutfitAmerican Girl Doll Needs Tlc Brunette W/ Blue EyesTwo 18' American Girl DollsAmerican Girl Doll Kanani In BoxKanani Goty American GirlHuge Lot Of American Girl Doll Clothing & Accessories Etc. Josefina's Adobe OvenAmerican Girl Doll Mckenna Goty 2012 American Girl Doll Girl Of The Year Retired W/ Meet Outfit EucAmerican Girl Kit Kittredge 18" Outfit Clothing Accessory LotLanie Goty American Girl With Hammock And Computer CaseAmerican Girl Elizabeth 18" Doll RetiredAmerican Girl Doll Just Like You Blonde Hair Brown Eyes FrecklesChrissa Goty American Girl Doll Emily Goty American Girl Caroline Doll & 3-book Boxed SetAmerican Girl Felicity Doll With 5 Retired Outfits + Accessories ExcellentAmerican Girl:grace Doll & Book With Ear PiercingAmerican Girl Doll MckennaAmerican Girl Kit Kittredge Pleasant Company 18" Doll Excellent ConditionAmerican Girl Doll 18" Rebecca In EucOriginal Retired Felicity American Girl Doll With Original Box*** 2012 American Girl Doll Mckenna ***Huge Lot Of American Girl Dolls And Accessories, Chair, Tables, Waffle Iron ...American Girl Doll RebeccaPleasant Company 18" American Girl Doll - Blue Eyes / Dirty Blonde Hair -American Girl Goty Kanani Doll Good ConditionAmerican Girl Kit Kitteridge Retired DollAuthentic American Girl Of The Year 2011 KananiAmerican Girl Doll Julie Needs Some TlcCustom American Girl Doll Lily By Fleur18studioAmerican Girl Caroline Doll & Paperback BookAmerican Girl Doll W/ Original Clothes And Shoes 18" Tall Nice ConditionVintage American Girl Samantha's Steamer TrunkAmerican Girl Miniature Weber Grill And Accessories LotLot Of 2 American Girl 18" Dolls Brown Blonde Hair Blue Eyes Ugg Boots Cast CuteBnib American Girl Caroline Abbott 18" Doll W/book No Reserve!!!American Girl Doll Caroline 18 Inch 2012 Blue EyesAmerican Girl Josefina Writing Desk, Stand, Picnic LunchAmerican Girl - Beforever Kit Doll & Paperback BookAmerican Girl Doll Nicki With Book Excellent Original BoxAmerican Girl Julie 18" DollAmerican Girl Doll KananiLot Of More Than (25) American Girl Doll Clothes/shoes/ Accessories18" American Girl Molly Doll Needs TlcAmerican Girl KirstenAmerican Girl Julie Doll - Retired Version-full Size Doll!Retired American Girl Pleasant Company Emily Doll Red Hair Blue EyesAmerican Girl Kaya 18" DollLot Of Random American Girl Doll Clothes Accessories ShoesLot Of American Girl Shirts Dresses Coats Etc.American Girl Doll Kanani LotAmerican Girl Doll18" American Girl Doll Elizabeth With Original Outfit, Doll, & Book!! American Girl Samantha Travel Duster Coat+hat+scarf+parasolAmerican Girl Bakery Display Case With Food