During the bleak years of the Great Depression, the lovable Shirley Temple became a symbol of happiness and hope for audiences around the world. In 1934, 20th Century Fox film songwriter Jay Gorney was taken with the dimpled, flaxen-haired star of a short film that preceded the feature at a local Los Angeles theater. As he was leaving, Gorney was surprised to recognize Temple and her family at the same theater, and soon the young actress was signing her first contract with Fox. By the end of the year, Temple would be featured in seven films, and would become the top-grossing box office star in the world.

Meanwhile, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company approached the Temple family with its Shirley Temple doll concept, and sculptor Bernard Lipfert was tasked to create its unique mold. After seeing more than 20 variations, both the Temple family and Ideal’s staff were satisfied, and the first composition Shirley Temple doll was created.

The earliest prototype was made from composition with three different wig options—red, blond, and brunette. A more generic version of the doll was also marketed without using Temple’s last name. In October of 1934, Ideal applied for a patent, and the Shirley Temple doll was officially announced in an issue of the retail industry magazine “Playthings.”

The updated design came in four sizes, with hazel eyes and curly, strawberry-blonde hair. The product’s only marking read “COP IDEAL N&T Co.” which was imprinted on the back of the doll’s head. Shirley Temple dolls came complete with a polka-dotted dress like the one she wore in “Stand Up and Cheer,” along with an official tag and celluloid button.

At $3.00 each, even the smallest Shirley Temple dolls weren’t cheap. Yet the toys were a hit, and soon Ideal commissioned designer Mollye Goldman to create a variety of outfits based on Temple’s film roles. Shirley Temple fans soon had an assortment of organdy dresses to choose from, many in cute sailor striped or polka-dotted styles.

These mini-versions of the child star quickly became Ideal’s best-selling product, and were made in nine different sizes. Other companies created knockoffs and found creative ways to skirt copyright law. Beginning with its “Little Colonel” doll, Madame Alexander purchased the rights to the books on which Temple’s films were based and marketed their dolls using these titles.

Over the years, Ideal modified its product, slimming the face mold, altering her coloration, and embossing the Shirley Temple name on both its body and head. Extensive lines of c...

After a nearly 20-year hiatus, the company released a slightly more grown-up Shirley Temple doll made from vinyl in 1957. Temple became closely involved with the production and promotion of Ideal’s new series, and two years later helped launch its first “Shirley Temple Playpal” doll, which was a full three feet in height.

In 1960, the first Shirley Temple Collectors Club was established. From the '60s through the '80s, new Shirley Temple dolls were regularly distributed by companies like Montgomery Ward and the Danbury Mint, aimed primarily at nostalgic adult collectors.

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Shirley, you don't want to miss this: Ms. Temple at Morris Museum, through May 24
Morristown Green, May 21st

A rare treat awaits you for just a few days at the Morris Museum. The Love, Shirley Temple exhibit will be in town through Sunday, May 24, 2015, displaying the iconic movie costumes Shirley wore, along with her dolls and other memorabilia from her ...Read more

Shirley Temple, James Dean, John Wayne and more honored at US museums
Newsday, May 13th

You don't have to board the Good Ship Lollipop for a sweet trip down memory lane to find out about Shirley Temple. A traveling exhibit celebrating America's sweetheart heads our way this week. It's just one of many attractions that pay tribute to...Read more

Shirley Temple memorabilia to be displayed at Wenham Museum
The Salem News, May 7th

“These were the things she had as a child, either in Santa Monica or Brentwood, and they were her favorite dolls,” said Stuart Holbrook, president of Theriault's Auctions. “You'll be able to see the costume she wore, and next to it a costumed doll...Read more

Remembering 'America's Little Darling'
The Daily News of Newburyport, May 7th

“These were the things she had as a child, either in Santa Monica or Brentwood, and they were her favorite dolls,” said Stuart Holbrook, president of exhibit sponsor Theriault's. “You'll be able to see the costume she wore and, next to it, a costumed...Read more

Shirley Temple collection comes to Wenham Museum
Wicked Local Hamilton, May 3rd

The collection includes Temple's most recognizable movie costumes, a child-sized racing car, a Theodore Steinway-inscribed baby-grand piano, autograph books, and her own dolls and playthings, among many other items. ... “Among other reasons, Wenham...Read more

'Love, Shirley Temple' visits Wenham
Boston Globe (subscription), April 30th

Shirley Temple pictured in her “duck dress,” with its matching Shirley Temple doll. ON THE GOOD SHIP LOLLIPOP “Love, Shirley Temple,” an exhibit of the actress's childhood collection of movie costumes, dolls, and memorabilia, is at the Wenham Museum ...Read more

National Shirley Temple Tour Launches in Rochester
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 24th

"Shirley Temple had a huge impact on American society, and her life inspired a host of dolls, toys, and other keepsakes," said Christopher Bensch, vice president for collections at The Strong. "We are honored to be chosen as the first venue to display...Read more

Celebrating Shirley Temple's sweet legacy
Arizona Daily Wildcat, April 22nd

If President Bill Clinton had ever spoken from the White House lawn crediting Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen with charming Americans through the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing tragedy, all his remaining credibility would have vanished. When President ...Read more