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Oh, What a Doll!

December 14, 2014

Susan Marg

You can buy a Madame Alexander doll wherever fine toys are sold. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, has a wide selection from babies to ballerinas, including Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious Cloth Dolls. Or, you can buy a vintage Madame Alexander doll on E-Bay.

A Russian Madame Alexander doll from the International Series. Photo by: Jennie Ivins

A Russian Madame Alexander doll from the International Series. Photo by: Jennie Ivins

Beatrice Alexander, the founder and namesake of the doll company, began her business from her kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York in 1923. The daughter of Russian immigrants, she learned her craft by the side of her father who operated the first-of-its-kind doll hospital.

Initially the Madame Alexander Dolls were homemade from cloth, but the business soon expanded. In the 1930s, Alexander added lifelike details. With synthetics introduced in the 1940s, she began using plastic to create vinyl heads and hair that could be styled.

In the 1950s advertisements touted various models:

Madeline – fully jointed at wrist, shoulder, hip and knee for pretty posing.

Kate Smith’s Annabelle – with the pixie look.

Rosebud – soft plastic baby with voice and moving eyes.

Maggie Walker – walks where you lead her.

Dryper Baby Doll – let her drink, change her real Dryper pantie pad insert.

Alexander believed that dolls could be used to educate and created collections based on historic events, literature, music, art and film. Some of the well-known personages on whom she based her designs include Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Chanel, the Dionne Quintuplets, and Queen Elizabeth and her daughters (at the royal family’s request). A Scarlett O’Hara doll is housed at the Smithsonian.

My mother received a Madame Alexander doll on her eighth or ninth birthday. It was the height of the depression, so my mother wonders how her parents had the money for such a wonderful gift. She still exclaims, “Oh, such a beautiful doll.”

As a personal historian I believe a favorite plaything can fill a sleigh with happy memories. What are some of yours?

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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