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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Lorettas Shirley Temple Dolls

Lorettas Shirley Temple Dolls

Loretta McKenzie's tribute to the charming, singing, dancing, curly haired Shirley Temple. Click 'My Dolls' on the … [read review or visit site]

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

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]

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

Steve McQueen Film Poster Site

If you're a Steve McQueen fan, this site can't be beat. Roger Harris has put together a definitive collection of Mc… [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]

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

Steven Hill's Movie Title Screens Page

If you're the type who likes watching the titles and credits at the beginning of movies, you'll love this site. Ste… [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]

Cinema Treasures

Cinema Treasures

This user-contributed database of classic movie theaters currently lists over 17,000 theaters worldwide. Browse by … [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]

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Warner Bros. Title Card Gallery

Dave Mackey's filmography and title card gallery for 35 years of Warner Bros. cartoons. Browsable by year or alphab… [read review or visit site]

Steves Disney Collection

Steves Disney Collection

Steve Lee’s large collection of original Disney art: pencil drawings from animated features produced during W… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

27" Ideal Shirley Temple In Cowgirl Outfit Original Pin 11" Ideal Shirley Temple Cowgirl Outfit 1936 Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll Texas Ranger 11" Sleep EyesVintage 1930's Ideal Marked 13" Shirley Temple DollIdeal Shirley Temple 13" Composition Doll All Original W Tagged DressVintage 1930s Shirley Temple Doll 18" W Original DressAntique Cop Ideal Shirley Temple Blonde Composition Sleepy Eye Teeth Doll 15"Shirley Temple 1930's Ideal Red Playsuit For Composition DollVintage Shirley Temple Ideal Doll-17"- Composition-stamped-sleep Eyes-1930s18" Ideal Shirley Temple Doll1930s Composition Doll Dimples Yellow Dress Fits 20" Shirley Temple Bright StarVintage Rare Shirley Temple Ideal Doll Playpal St 35-38-2 Sequin Party Dress1957 Shirley Temple Sleepy Eyes With 4 OutfitsShirley Temple Doll 36 " In Pink Dress. Very Rare.7.5" Composition Shirley Temple Made In Japan ~ Hard To Find Doll ~ Adorable1950s Ideal Vinyl Shirley Temple Doll St-19-1Fort Apache Original 1948 Lobby Card #7 John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley TempleFort Apache Original 1948 Lobby Card #6 John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple1930s Ideal Composition Doll ~ Shirley Temple ~ 13"1984 Mrs Shirley Temple 30" Vinyl Doll Dreams & Love W/sleep Eyes Green DressDollhouse Miniature Artisan Signed Shirley Temple Porcelain Doll 1/2 Scale 1:2416" Antique Vintage Original Shirley Temple Doll Composition Body Dress ShoesVintage Shirley Temple Doll By Ideal No. 9500 In Original Box 12" High W/ SuitShirley Temple 36" Doll W/original Clothes 1984 W/certificate Lil Colonel ~ Beautiful!! Vintage Original Ideal Shirley Temple Mohair Doll Wig For 16" DollNice Blue Original Dress For 15 Inch Ideal Composition Shirley Temple Doll DressVintage Ideal St-19 Flirty Eyed Shirley Temple Doll 18" Tall Original Dress!Vintage Ideal Shirley Temple Doll St-12 With Tagged Clothes Shoes Carrying CaseVintage Shirley Temple Composition Doll 18 Inches From 1930's To 40's Sleep EyesVintage 17" Ideal Shirley Temple Doll W/ Flirty Eyes 1950s Vintage Shirley Temple Photos 10th Birthday Party 20th Century Fox Call SheetsVintage 1956 Shirley Temple Vinyl Doll OriginalHazel Atlas Depression Glass Cobalt Blue Shirley Temple Cup Or Mug. Shirley Temple On The Cover Of 1938 Swedish Magazine1935.photoplay.cary Grant.fay Wray.shirley Temple.mae West.kay Francis CoverBeautiful Antique Shirley Temple 12 Inch Doll W/sleepy Time Eyes & Open Mouth All Original 1972 Shirley Temple Doll In Stand-up & Cheer Outfit - By Ideal Vintage 1950's.rare Shirley Temple Doll St-12-n/st-b Excellent Condition RareShirley Temple 18” Ideal Composition DollCollectible Vintage "shirley Temple" Memorabilia Books And Sheet MusicShirley Temple Original Cinderella Coach Frock Clothing TagVintage Antique 16" Shirley Temple Doll DressVtg 1930’s “shirley Temple Brand” Drop Seat Child's Girl Jumper Size 4 Pajama November 16, 1943 Look Magazine - Shirley Temple, Rare Stetson AdScreen Play Magazine - May 1936 - Shirley Temple Cover By WarrenShirley Temple All Bisque Artist Doll 24" Beautifully Painted & Dressed 1994Shirley Temple 1934 Garbaty Film Star Series 2 Embossed Cigarette Card #237Movie Life1949 Howard Duff-doris Day-shirley Temple-monty Clift-roy Rogers....1936 Shirley Temple Sewing Card Set Complete In Teh BoxDanbury Mint Shirley Temple Ornament "captain January"Danbury Mint Ornament Shirley Temple "heidi"Danbury Mint Shirley Temple Ornament "curly Top"Danbury Mint Shirley Temple Ornament "poor Little Rich Girl"Danbury Mint Shirley Temple Ornament "wee Willie Winkie"Danbury Mint Ornament Shirley Temple "young People"Vintage 1930's Ideal Shirley Temple 13 Inch Composition DollDanbury Mint Ornament Shirley Temple "stand Up And Cheer"Danbury Mint Shirley Temple Ornament "bright Eyes"Vintage 1950's Ideal Shirley Temple St-12 Doll W/ Sleep Eyes & Original Dress 15” Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Original Paisley Dress St-15-n Sleepy Flirty Eyes