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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Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls
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Shirley Temple exhibit coming to Louisville museumWRAL.com, May 26th
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A Louisville museum is opening an exhibit devoted to 1930s Hollywood child star Shirley Temple. The Frazier History Museum will put about 200 items on display from the actress' personal collection of costumes, dolls and mementos...Read more
Frazier books Shirley Temple exhibitThe Courier-Journal, May 22nd
The Frazier History Museum has booked an unusual exhibit of Shirley Temple memorabilia, including the child star's personal collection of costumes, dolls and other belongings, that will run at the West Main Street facility July 3-8. The Frazier is one...Read more
Shirley Temple memorabilia to be displayed at Wenham MuseumThe 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 MuseumWicked 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 WenhamBoston 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
Shirley Temple's Keepsakes Going On Tour, From Her Dolls To Her Baby GrandThe Inquisitr, March 31st
So which of Shirley Temple's keepsakes could you own? There's the baby grand piano and child-sized race car from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, her own autograph collection and her movie costumes, doll collection and gifts given to her by actors and...Read more
Lost Shirley Temple doll still her favoriteQuad City Times, December 24th
Santa left no gifts, no Shirley Temple doll. Wallie remembers, “I cried and cried. Then he returned and handed me a big box. I tore off the wrapping paper. My hands were shaking. Inside was my Shirley Temple doll. It was the happiest Christmas of my life...Read more