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    

Vintage Shirley Temple Doll 16'' W/ Travel Case Old Composition Shirley TempleVintage 1930's Shirley Temple Ideal 18" Composition Doll Original Pink Dress PinVintage Ideal Shirley Temple Character Doll, Flirty Eyes,original Tagged DressRare & Fabulous 18" Composition Shirley Temple Makeup Heidi Doll With ProvenanceVintage Shirley Temple "curly Top" Tagged Dress W/onesie1930's Ideal Doll Co. 16" Composition Flirty Eye Shirley Temple Doll TlcShirley Temple Doll 1950's 17" Original Nylon Party Dress, Tagged, So LovelyHuge 20" Compo/composition Shirley Temple Doll Needs Tlc1936 Shirley Temple Doll Texas Ranger/cowgirl/clothes/hat Etc. 27 In.Vintage Shirley Temple Doll Composition Ideal 22 Needs Tlc!Shirley Temple Doll 1950's Htf Crisp Nylon Dress,tagged, 12inch.Original 1930's Ideal Composition Shirley Temple 13 Inch Doll 18 Inch *tlc Shirley Temple * By IdealVintage Blue Dress Clothes Orig Composition 27" Shirley Temple Doll Ideal Toy Ideal Shirley Temple Tagged Green Dress With White Trim VgcVtg 1930s Ideal 18" Shirley Temple Doll Nude Needs TlcVintage Pink Kitten Dress 1930s Composition 27" Shirley Temple Doll Ideal Toy Vintage 1950s~12 Inch~ideal Shirley Temple Doll~ With Outfits~nrIdeal Shirley Temple Tagged Pink Print Dress VgcVintage Shirley Temple Doll By Ideal Co (1930's) In Custom Display Box Polka DotVintage Shirley Temple Doll !Vintage Shirley Temple Doll 1930'sVintage Ideal 30’s 20” Ginger/cinderella/shirley Temple Body Compo DollDanbury Mint Shirley Temple Dimples 16" Porcelain Doll With Packaging PaperworkLindstrom Toy Sewing Machine With Shirley Temple From 1930's Vintage Rare Shirley Temple Hair Barrette Acrylic1930s Shirley Temple Pin BadgeIdeal Shirley Temple Baby DressOoak Springtime Ensemble In Yellow For Patti/shirley Temple 5-day OnlyVintage Ideal Shirley Temple 15" Vinyl Doll Toy St 15 N In Heidi German DressVintage Ideal Shirley Temple Composition Doll 20 InchShirley Temple Little Darling Collection 18 Disc 18 Feature Dvd Boxed Set New12 Inch Shirley Temple Doll In Pinstripe Overalls And Plaid Shirt Beautiful1991 The Danbury Mint "the Shirley Temple Dress Up Doll With 4 Outfits. MintShirley Temple Doll Ideal Vintage 1973 New Old Store Stock"darling Little Shirley" Temple Doll Danbury Mint Mib CoaVintage 1950's Ideal Shirley Temple Doll Original Clothes Shoes Tag Etc. 14"3 Original Composition Shirley Temple Pinbacks ~ All 3 Pins Excellent Condition!New "heidi" Outfit (dress, Slip, Panties) For Your 12" Ideal Shirley Temple DollVintage Rare Original 16" Patsy Joan, Shirley Temple Doll Clothes Pattern 8507Vintage Shirley Temple Original Dress # 1Vintage Shirley Temple Original Dress # 2"ideal" Shirley Temple Doll12 Inch Shirley Temple Doll, Clothes, Mattel TaggedMovie Magazines - Screen Romances 11/37 Shirley Temple CoverIdeal Shirley Temple 4 Dolls In Boxes Vintage 1972 Ideal 16" Shirley Temple In BoxVintage Pattern Doll Lot Shirley Temple Sindy Saucy Walker 10 PatternsVintage Original Fits 12" Shirley Temple Doll Clothes Pattern 8799 Ideal Dolls Miss Revlon And Shirley Temple 1950'sShirley Temple Stand Up And Cheer Porcelain Doll Danbury Mint 1986 Excellent!Movie Life Magazine Nov 1937 Ginger Rodgers Cover Clark Gable Shirley Temple15 *old* Shirley Temple Clothing And Dolls Magazine Photos And Newspaper AdsVintage Original Fits 17" Shirley Temple Doll Clothes Pattern 87991972 Shirley Temple Doll W/ Metal Steamer Trunk And ClothesDress Fits Ideal Shirley Temple 17", By *carole Diane Originals*Lot Of 9 Dolls,ideal Shirley Temple 8", Compo Body,2-10 " Vinyl, Vogue, Drowsy +Shirley Temple Blue Glass Cereal Bowl Nice Condition $20 Post Paid 1936 Screen Book Ginger Rogers On Cover Shirley Temple Robert Taylor EtcDanbury Mint Shirley Temple Doll Little Miss Toddler Elke Hutchens Clothes

Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls

Source: Google News

How Shirley Temple Helped FDR
The Atlantic, April 16th

She rescued 20th Century Fox from near-bankruptcy and moved mountains of merchandise, from Shirley Temple dolls to Bisquick and Puffed Wheat. And the global celebrity did it all—onscreen and off—with an assertive flair that showcased her uncanny ...Read more

Shirley Temple birthday party features rare collection
Casper Journal, April 16th

The Shirley Temple doll her mother carefully treasured since age 17 is now hers. It sparked her interest in dolls and the child movie star, Robinson said, looking across a room full or memorabilia she's preparing for a Shirley Temple birthday party...Read more

best coming to doll show
The Press, April 15th

Our club project this year was Shirley Temple, which will be on display, so there will be about 20 Shirley Temple dolls made by members over the year," she said. "Our theme for the show is Easter Parade which involves a lot of easter bunnies, bonnets...Read more

Book Review: 'The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression' by John F. Kasson
Wall Street Journal, April 11th

Mr. Kasson devotes an entire chapter to Temple as an American commercial commodity, discussing mainly the popular Shirley Temple doll and the line of relatively expensive dresses that carried her name. There was in fact much more: sheet music, coloring ...Read more

New books go to heart of star power of Shirley Temple, John Wayne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 9th

By 1935, Kasson notes, Shirley Temple dolls accounted for one-third of all dolls sold in the United States. And Temple's dimples and curls spawned Shirley look-alike contests around the country. But where "The Little Girl Who Fought the Great...Read more

CornerShot: Sharing birthdays with Shirley Temple
Roanoke Times, April 8th

The years passed and the doll was stored away in a trunk. One day, while going through the trunk of memories, I found Shirley. I took her to a woman who restores dolls. She gave her a new Shirley wig, cleaned her and applied some finishing touches. I...Read more

Celebrating the history of a little doll
Leominster Champion, April 2nd

Nancy Bilotta, a Shirley Temple collector, and Pinder were connected on Facebook, and Bilotta said she had a collection of Temple dolls, so the two women put together an impressive exhibit for all to enjoy. Bilotta, back in 2009, donated two Shirley...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: A valuable Temple doll is Shirley authentic
Post-Bulletin, March 21st

Shirley came at the right time during the Great Depression to save 20th Century Fox Pictures from going into bankruptcy. She also brought cheer to mothers who dressed their daughters in department store Shirley Temple-style clothing or they purchased ...Read more