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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Doll exhibits from High Point get new life at museum in Spencer
High Point Enterprise, August 31st

The exhibits — which include two dollhouses, a huge collection of Shirley Temple dolls and the Madame Alexander “Wizard of Oz” doll collection — can now be seen at the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum, which is located in downtown Spencer near the N.C. ...Read more

A family-friendly North Fork day trip
Newsday, August 31st

I decided it was time to bring my vintage Shirley Temple doll for a visit. In addition, my granddaughter Amanda brought her ... I let my younger sister, who really didn't like dolls, play with Shirley. Years later, I discovered that the doll lost her...Read more

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SCNow, August 30th

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Here There Be Ligers: An Oral History of 'Napoleon Dynamite'
Rolling Stone Australia, August 28th

What a difference a year makes. In 2003, Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess, and Jon Heder — students at Brigham Young University's film school — were just another trio of independent filmmakers working the festival circuit in Park City. Their short film...Read more

Photos: City celeberates Lodi Founders Day
Lodi News-Sentinel, August 23rd

Barbara Kettner plays “America the Beautiful” on an electric piano while the crowd sings during the Founders Day celebration at Eagle Hall in Lodi on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The Founders Day Celebration, hosted by the Lodi Historical Society, kicked off...Read more

Brimfield antiques market on the decline
Boston Globe, August 22nd

“The problem,” he says, “is that Shirley Temple is worthless, nobody knows who Howdy Doody is, and no one cares about the Lone Ranger. ... The nearby pastures full of reproductions, Barbie dolls from the 1990s, and used Coldplay CDs grate on her...Read more

Parents plan fundraiser in honor of their daughter
Fremont Tribune, August 21st

Katie's favorite color was pink. She loved Barbie dolls and cats and was so excited about school. The 5-year-old Fremont ... The little girl had dark hair which fell in ringlets like actress Shirley Temple's. She knew how to write her name and was...Read more

Antique toy exhibit hosted by Otisfield association
Lewiston Sun Journal, August 14th

Among those items are a number of first-year-issue items, such as a 1963 Easy Bake Oven, a 1949 Clue game, tin trucks from the early part of the century and lovely and unusual dolls of every description, she said. "I have a Shirley Temple doll...Read more