When illustrator and cartoonist Johnny Gruelle’s terminally ill daughter, Marcella, found a faded rag doll in her grandmother’s attic, he painted a new, smiling face on the toy. Naming it Raggedy Ann after two poems by his friend James Whitcomb Riley, “The Raggedy Man” and “Orphan Annie,” he made up a series of stories around this character to entertain his only child, who loved to spend hours playing dolls.
After her death in 1916, Gruelle wrote and illustrated 25 storybooks based on those tales. Responding to the series’ popularity, in 1918, Gruelle and his family made several dozen dolls to sell with the books, and later that year, Gruelle licensed the publisher, the P.F. Volland Company, to manufacture the dolls based on his 1915 patent for an all-cloth doll with shoe-button eyes, a painted face, brown yarn hair, a dress, pantaloons, a pinafore, stripped legs, and black cloth shoes.
Soon after the dolls were sold, Gruelle received a package from a childhood playmate of his mother, who explained that their mothers had made a pair of boy-and-girl companion dolls for their two children. In the package, she had sent him Raggedy Ann’s “twin brother,” Andy, and soon the family started to license dolls of Raggedy Andy and other characters from the books, including Beloved Belindy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees, as well as coloring books, puzzles, and games. All are hot collectors’ items today.
It is rumored that the original P.F. Volland dolls had a real candy heart, but after parents complained the candy was switched out with a cardboard heart. Mollye Goldman was the first, in 1935, to produce the dolls with an “I Love You” heart imprinted on the chest.
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Recent News: Raggedy Ann and Andy Dolls
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Marines' Toys for Tots off to slow startShreveport Times, November 24th
He started Toys for Tots after his wife, Diane, was unable to find a charity that would accept a handmade Raggedy Ann doll for a poor child. He used his film industry clout to persuade Walt Disney Studios to create the logo still used in the drives...Read more
Holiday exhibit at Roberson is “tradition” for manyPress & Sun-Bulletin, November 23rd
A talking Woody Woodpecker hand puppet, made by Mattel, sits in a case near a Raggedy Ann doll. A few paces over is a case filled with Tonka trucks. For Bill Cook, of Franklin, this section is among his favorites. “It brings back a lot of memories...Read more
Not all treasures worth keeping are made of goldThe Virginian-Pilot, November 22nd
Pat Fowler's husband calls her Raggedy Ann doll a zombie, but she calls it her good friend. Her mother sewed it for her during an otherwise bleak Christmas in 1941. Fowler was 6, and the family was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Her father was in the Navy...Read more
Greta Van Susteren has history of being funnyAppleton Post Crescent, November 21st
15, 1962, Post-Crescent letter to the editor she wrote on Raggedy Ann stationery. Van Susteren's point: Speaking out is nothing new for her. On Thursday, I dug through Post-Crescent archives, curious to learn what other humorous comments were included...Read more
Downtown Akron is tinseled and lit: tree festival and 10 other holiday ...cleveland.com, November 21st
The course winds through department store window displays from the 1960's, 70's and 80's, including "The 3 Little Pigs", Peter Pan and Raggedy Ann. Nine holes cost $3. Breakfast with Santa. Eat breakfast with Santa Claus on Dec. 6, 13, 20 and 21 from 9...Read more
Raggedy Ann poured my Halloween coffeeJackson Hole News&Guide, October 29th
On Halloween morning I found myself entering a crumbling cafe, where an elderly waitress seemingly consumed by the bleakness of her financial future came to take my breakfast order dressed as Raggedy Ann. The poor woman. It was 7 in the morning, and ...Read more
Made in Michigan: Raggedy Ann dollsWZZM, August 7th
Who knew Raggedy Ann has a Muskegon connection? Ann Dake did, and she's organized an exhibit running at the Muskegon Heritage Museum through Saturday to tell others about the connection. The character and doll were created around 1915 by a ...Read more
Three downtown museums to celebrate Raggedy Ann's Muskegon rootsThe Muskegon Chronicle, July 27th
Raggedy Ann -- the well-known rag doll with red yarn hair, a triangle nose and star of a series of children's books written by American writer Johnny Gruelle -- will be the focus of events held at the Muskegon Museum of Art, the Muskegon Heritage...Read more