Virginia Davis, Doll Reader
It is with sadness that we learned in June of 2009, about the closing of the Raggedy Ann Doll Museum in Arcola, Illinois.
Another tribute to history has felt the axe of the struggling economy.
When I talked with Joni Wannamaker in 2002, she was very excited about opening a museum is her grandfather’s (Johnny Gruelle) honor.
The town already hosted a “Raggedy Ann” festival each year around the middle of May.
On March 28, 2002, Raggedy Ann was inducted into The Toy Hall of Fame. Each year, many toys that have bought decades of joy to children, are nominated. Few dolls have made it, Barbie received the honor in 1998, and the beloved Raggedy Ann was number three.
Created by illustrator Johnny Gruelle, in 1915, Raggedy Ann takes people back to a time when life was simpler and toys ran on imagination.
This treasured doll is handed down through several generations. Condition is not important to children…the more she is played with the more she is loved, and of course she has earned the right to be raggedy.
The doll continues to sell, because parents who loved her as a child want one for their children.
After the September 11, 2001 tragedy, many Americans wanted something wholesome … something to reconnect them with their youth. Raggedy Ann is very patriotic: she is red, white and blue and her little heart says, “I love you.”
In the years following the “9/11 tragedy” Doll artists were thinking patriotic. The artists were proud of Raggedy being inducted into the toy hall of fame, and being recognized for a lifetime of achievement for bringing smiles to millions of children. Several doll artists decided to recreate dolls reminiscent of Raggedy Ann in their own image:
Jerri McCloud created Raggedy Jerri and Raggedy Jim. Jerri says, “Each year we presented a convention for our collectors. One of the events of the convention was to bring a “Jerri doll” that the collector had redressed. One collector brought a boy and girl redressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy…she named the dolls “Raggedy Jim and Raggedy Jerri” after my husband and me. I thought they were so cute, I decided to make a whole line of the raggedy dolls and they have been my best sellers.”
Virginia Turner created Julie D. and Johnny D. “The Mop Tops” Because Virginia says, “Everyone likes the Mop Top look. I like it and have several dolls including a set of wooden ones that have the mop top look, and it makes a charming decoration for a child’s room.”
Mattel created their Kelly dolls as “Raggedy Kelly and Raggedy Tommy” because little girls have suddenly rediscovered the Kelly doll and they like dolls that remind them of other toys in their toy chest…Kelly is a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz, the dolls from Nutcracker, and now Raggedy dolls, because every girl loves Raggedy Ann.
Susan Wakeen created “My Best Friends Raggedy Ann and Andy” for the Danbury Mint because they are classic and they are nostalgic while possessing a special tenderness that transports everyone back to their childhood.
Phyllis Parkins from “The Collectables” created soft. Cuddly rag bodied dolls whose bright faces make children smile and whose bodies were made to cuddle and love.
Marie Osmond has porcelain Raggedy Ann and Andy who bring smiles, laughter and love.
Kelly Rubert created a doll named Ann, dressed like Raggedy Ann, with a rag doll that looks like Richard Simmons.
Wendy Lawton created a beautiful doll of Marcella with her Raggedy Ann. It was on her most popular dolls with collectors.
Kim Hobbs a retailer that owned “Hobbs House of Dolls” says, “In all my years in business a Raggedy Ann or any doll that looks like Raggedy Ann has always been my best seller.”
So Raggedy Ann, her brother Andy, and dolls that remind of Raggedy Ann and Andy, live on to make another generation of children very happy.
Raggedy Ann is 94 years old and her brother is 89, when the dolls are 100 + years old, they will still live to brighten the hearts of children and those who are children at heart.
The little doll has had quite an illustrious past. Let’s follow the doll and her creator through a time line.
A CENTURY TIME LINE FROM 1902 – 2009
Johnny Gruelle landed his first newspaper job at an Indianapolis tabloid called “People” and in April of the same year moved to The “Indianapolis Sun.” Gruelle a free lance artist, who was happiest, being a cartoonist, was Born in Arcola, Illinois in 1880. He moved with his parents to Indianapolis at the age of two.
Gruelle move to Cleveland, Ohio to work for the Cleveland press, where he turned out ten cartoons each week.
Gruelle began producing features for children. His cartoons appeared in McCalls, Sunday Magazine and other noted magazines.
Marcella Gruelle Johnny Gruelle’s daughter) found a rag doll in the attic and her father told her, the doll had belonged to his mother. The doll’s face had faded so Johnny drew it a new one with black eyes and a triangular shaped nose. Marcella dressed it in clothes made from the family’s discarded garments.
Marcella and Johnny named the doll “Raggedy Ann” after the poems of James Whitcomb Riley “The Raggedy Man” and Orphan Annie.”
Johnny made up stories about Raggedy Ann in order to entertain Marcella. In the fall of 1915, Marcella received a contaminated smallpox vaccination at school. While she was ill she could only be comforted by the Raggedy Ann stories. She died on November 8th in her father’s arms, when she was only 13 years old.
Gruelle put the Raggedy Ann stories into print in his daughter’s memory.
P.F. Volland, a juvenile publisher in Chicago, became publishers of the Raggedy books, and they suggested since the books were about a doll, that Gruelle should make the doll to help sell the books. Gruelle agreed, and the whole family became involved: two grandmothers, an aunt & Uncle, Johnny’s wife and two sons all worked together and made the dolls at home. The Volland Company made the doll with a cardboard heart that you could feel.
Gruelle patented Raggedy Ann’s brother Andy in time for the release of the Raggedy books.
Gruelle and Volland chose a different company “Beers, Keeler and Bowman: to manufacture Raggedy Ann. The P.F. Volland Company continued to make Raggedy Andy. So, in the 1920s Raggedy Ann and Andy were not a matched pair.
Raggedy Ann looks different as she grows older. Her plain face that held little expression gained button eyes, rosy cheeks and an impish smile. Her clothes became prettier, with little embroidered aprons and special feminine touches.
Molleye Dolls made outfits for the Raggedy dolls…they were marked: Raggedy Ann doll/manufactured by Molleye Doll Outfitters.
by now Raggedy Ann and Andy had become household words and everyone was referring to the dolls. Gruelle was known as the “Raggedy Man.” He continued to work for magazines such as “Cosmopolitan” as well as draw his Sunday newspaper comics.
Gruelle produced a full color comic called “Brutus” which became very popular.
The Raggedy Ann newspaper proverbs receive national Syndication.
Johnny Gruelle, now World recognized as a famous illustrator and writer, dies.
Raggedy Ann and Andy have been produced by many companies. Kinkenbocker, Georgene, Molleye, and the latest was Applause.
. fans began to collect Raggedy Ann and Andy. The Raggedy images appeared on tea sets, children’s dishes, curtains, lunch boxes, juice glasses, baby’s cribs, and countless other items. To have the Raggedy logo was almost a sure sell for any product.
Even in Europe the dolls have become popular and are being shipped by the thousands.
The dolls are considered wholesome and all parents are wanting the dolls for their children. The best part is that Raggedy dolls and items bearing their image remain inexpensive so many children had dozens of Raggedy Ann items.
The Nasco/Bobbs Merril Co, made a hard plastic doll 24″ and then made ventriloquist doll that were 30″ that wasn’t too popular. It seemed people preferred Raggedy Ann to be silent.
Applause Toy company made dolls that come in all sizes.
Knickerbocker produces the dolls with red hair with tag sewn in back of doll…12″ doll to $500 and the first 36″ doll.
The first Raggedy books appeared in 1918, now Patricia Hall writes books about the Raggedy Ann phenomenon. She thinks the dolls represent wholesomeness and friendship.
Raggedy Ann and her famous brother appear on a postage stamp as one of the 15 dolls stamps made to honor America’s third largest collectible (dolls.)
Arcola, Illinois the birthplace of Gruelle holds a Raggedy Ann Festival in honor of Johnny and his famous dolls. It was held in mid-May and included two days of memorabilia, crafts, pageants and parades. The festival became an annual event.
The Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum opens in Arcola, Illinois. It is owned and operated by Johnny Gruelle’s granddaughter, Joni Wannamaker.
A popular American Magazine ran a survey of the most popular dolls of all time: Raggedy Ann appeared third, up staged only by Effanbee’s Patsy and Ideal’s Shirley Temple.
Raggedy Ann is now a great collectable, she has fan clubs, collector clubs, a doll hospital, a magazine called “Rags” and the vintage dolls are selling for thousands of dollars. The interest in Raggedy Ann is at an all time high.
on March 28th Raggedy Ann is inducted into “The Toy Hall of Fame” this made her collectors and fan very happy. The doll continues to bring a smile to the faces of millions.
Doll artist really appreciate Raggedy Ann, and many say she was their first doll and inspired them to become dolls artists.
The Museum in Illinois closes, but Raggedy lives on because she has secured a permanent place in the hearts of millions who will pass her to the next generation.
Designed by Johnny Gruelle and manufactured by P.J. Volland. These doll are marked: “patented Sept. 7, 1915 and are all cloth with tin or wood button eyes, painted features, oversized hands and feet with auburn hair. The 15-16″ dolls value at $2,000 while the 23″ ones value at $2,500.00
Marked on chest: manufactured by Mollye doll outfitter. Have the nose outlined in black, red heart on chest, more orange hair than auburn, multicolored legs and some have oil cloth faces. The 14″ one are $1,000.00, 18″ dolls $1,200, and the 21″ about $1,500.
Georgene Novelties…Annie has orange hair in a topknot with many different mouth styles. Seams separate the legs and arms to represent elbows and knees. Feet are turned forward. The legs are red and white stripped and All have hearts that read “I love you”, tag is sewn to left side and reads “Georgene Novelties, Inc.”
Dolls range from $400 to $800 depending on size
Dolls are 18″ and value $300
Dolls are 18″ and value $200
Where is your Raggedy Ann doll? Do you have an Andy doll? Have you given them a hug today?