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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
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Steve McQueen Film Poster Site
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Vintage Dolls of the 50s
Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls
Museum of Childhood
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Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls
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Estate Sale Roundup: October 17-19: The weather is perfect for rummagingAustin Chronicle, October 17th
Southwestern Louisiana Institute "L'Acadian" 1947-49 yearbooks and other books; vintage Underwood typewriter; Targus briefcase, Targus laptop case; CD's, board games and playing cards; Shirley Temple doll with pinback and other vintage dolls and...Read more
Seniors have wishes granted, dance to Jazz Band at Magnolia Ball on Oct. 5Marietta Daily Journal, October 16th
The Johnson Ferry Jazz Band, directed by Dr. Brian Hedrick, played Big Band favorites, such as “Satin Doll,” “In the Mood,” “Tuxedo Junction,” and “String of Pearls.” Andrea Mueller, vocalist with the Jazz Band, sang several songs, including “Over the ...Read more
Sanctifying Malala: The Nobel Prize and Moral AlibisDissident Voice, October 11th
(This takes the form, most blatantly, in the charge that she is a product of the CIA doll factory.) Malala, in what is becoming something ... She has become a politicised Shirley Temple, a child politician of the developing world. Her life under...Read more
Altrusa's doll show brings out 'kid' in collectorsWausau Daily Herald, October 8th
Sought-after collections include baby-faced dolls, Barbies, antique dolls, vintage favorites like Chatty Cathy, Shirley Temple and Crissy, and the modern American Girl and Cabbage Patch dolls. With 100 vendor tables, Altrusa's show will have...Read more
The Shirley Temple dollOshawa Express, October 1st
Items such as Shirley Temple dolls, photos, books, dresses and jewelry were all available for consumers. During her height of popularity in the 1930s, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company approached the Temple family with their Shirley Temple doll...Read more
Gris: Not your average 88-year-oldMacon Telegraph (blog), September 30th
I'm glad I also got to see the dolls she made by hand, as well as the Shirley Temple dolls she has collected since she was a child. Her daughter, Jennie, told me Libba had a brain hemorrhage at age 32. It happened three months after her youngest child...Read more
The Seasoned Collector: Boutique supports children's hospital; glass pumpkin ...San Jose Mercury News, September 30th
You also will come across jewelry and designer purses, toys, paintings and prints, books galore, plus a brand-new section featuring collectible dolls and bears. Veteran shoppers well know there are tables laden with silverware, but this year one...Read more
Community-sponsored day trips and travelThe Delaware County Daily Times, September 26th
To Tropicana Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., for a performance by Laura Roth, Dec. 8. Cost of $74 includes $15 in slot play, buffet lunch, and a show starring Laura Roth as she becomes Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and even Shirley Temple...Read more