1915 - 2016 Rag Dolls

Rag dolls are one of oldest types of doll which can be traced far back into ancient history! Of course, modern rag dolls are quite different from their historic relatives, as today's dolls tend to be based on advertising or licensed characters. I don't have very many rag dolls in my collection, but I do find them interesting so I thought they deserved a page on this blog. As rag dolls are made out of fabric and stuffed they can be considered as plush toys, however they often have removable doll clothing so for that reason I find they have more in common with articulated dolls than plush toys.

Until recently rag dolls have not been market "for boys" quite as often as plastic articulated dolls have. Up until the 1990s, rag dolls that fell into the boys category were generally not exclusively for boys, but could be played with by any child, boy or girl, such as Sesame Street or Hanna Barbara Rag Dolls. This is still the case today, however since the early 90's there have been more occasions, such as with wrestling characters, that rag dolls have been marketed specifically for boys.

Famous Rag dolls: Raggedy Ann and Andy

What exactly is a rag doll?

Although the term "rag doll" might make you think of classic cloth dolls such as Raggedy Ann and Andy (shown above), a very diverse range of fabric style dolls have been categorized as rag dolls. I've found that there are generally four categories of rag dolls, though some dolls might fall into the grey zones between each:

Bendable Cloth Figures
This is the classic style human shaped doll, such as Raggedy Ann and Andy, with arms and legs that are attached to the body in such a way that they can move (or flop) back and forth. The doll's elbows and knees have also been sewn across in a line to make them bendable. Although these dolls are stuffed they are typically flat, and the faces are illustrated or stitched with thread. This is a very common hand-made style of rag doll, but they can also be mass produced. Traditionally these dolls are made with removable doll clothes, however some are made with the clothes forming the body of the doll, or attached to the doll. Raggedy Ann dolls, for example, have striped red and white legs and black feet which form the doll's socks and shoes, while the rest of the clothing is removable.

Illustrated Pillow Figures
This type of rag doll was commonly used for marketing advertising characters from the 60's and 70's. They are essentially a flat, stuffed pillow that has been shaped to the illustration on the fabric, and as such they do not have any removable doll clothes. Usually this type of doll also does not have any bendable arms and legs as they are part of the illustrated character, however there are some that have included a few bendable limbs, such as just the legs or just one arm. For several decades textile stores have commonly sold cotton fabric for crafters to create their own home-made pillow figures. In addition to licensed characters, holiday and religious characters are popular themes for such textiles.

Shaped Cloth Figures
This type of doll is not flat like the above two styles of rag doll, but instead has a shaped face and body the same way a teddy bear would be made, and therefor it is essentially a stuffed toy. I'm not certain why this type of stuffed doll has been called a rag doll, but I have often seen such toys classified this way. It may have to do with the type of fabric being used, as these types of rag dolls tend to be made with thinner cotton or slightly plush fabric rather than stronger quality fabrics with a thicker plush or synthetic fur. As such, these dolls have more of a flat surface than other plush toys. In addition, these types of dolls generally don't have removable dolls clothes as different coloured fabrics are used to make the body and resemble the doll's clothing.

Illustrated Cloth Figures
These types of dolls are a mix of the above three types of rag doll and do not have removable dolls clothes. The entire doll including the body is decorated by a printed illustration. Since the 1990's, this style of doll is typically shaped like a plush toy rather than being flat. As mass production of rag dolls developed in the late 1900's and into the 2000s, this type of printed fabric doll has become more and more common.

Also worth mentioning:

Plush toys with an illustrated face
These are not rag dolls, but do borrow from the rag doll style. Today it is very common to find high quality plush toys that have been made with illustrated faces, which is a technique long used for rag dolls rather than plush toys. I have seen a wide range of "dolls for boys" made in this style, including Star Wars characters, dolls based on the rock band KISS, many superheroes, and even sports celebrities.

Raggedy Ann and Andy, 1915 - present

Raggedy Ann and Andy are two rag doll characters which, according to Wikipedia, have been around since 1915. Many toy companies have produced Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls over the last hundred years. The most popular among these that I know of were made by the Knickerbocker company in the mid 1970s.  Since their introduction the rag dolls have been popular as home-made craft projects. Collectors of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls often place equal value towards well made artisan dolls as they do with the mass produced licensed dolls. The characters have also appeared in many children's books, comic books, a cartoon TV series, and so on.

The set of dolls shown above are hand-made Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls that I bought from an artisan at a craft sale. I acquired the Ann doll in 2015 and asked the doll maker if she had Raggedy Andy, but she didn't. However, she said that she would make me one for the following year's sale, so in 2016 I bought the Andy doll from her to complete the set! These ones are 12 inches tall and have removable dolls clothes. Below is the back view of the two dolls to show the detail in the costume.

Raggedy Ann and Andy have never been marketed for boys. Mass produced dolls of the characters were often stocked in the girls doll isle in toy stores or advertised with the girl dolls in catalogues. With some reservation however, boys have at times been permitted to play with Raggedy Andy dolls. In fact, it's quite possible that Raggedy Andy was the first actual doll that boys were permitted to play with, long before G.I.Joe arrived in the 1960's. However even today, some would consider a boy playing with Raggedy Andy is still somewhat taboo, which is quite a shame in my view. It's also quite odd considering the hundreds of "dolls for boys" that have been marketed over the past 50 years.

One of the many popular children's stories about these doll characters is called "Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with Wrinkled Knees", featuring a blue camel which is less common to find as a doll. I have only ever seen mass produced dolls of the camel, rather than hand-made dolls.

Here is the Wikipedia page about Raggedy Ann and Andy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raggedy_Ann

Sprout, 12 inch rag doll, 1970's or early 1980's

This is a pillow style rag doll of Sprout, the Jolly Green Giant's side kick made in the 1970's or early 1980's. I've shown it next to an 8 inch Spider-Man Mego for size comparison. A similar Sprout rag doll was previously marketed in the 1960s which depicted a very differently illustrated version of the Sprout character, as seen at this doll website: http://www.dollreference.com/advertising-dolls-1950s-1960s-1970s.html Below is the back view. This is a very commonly found doll and isn't all that valuable, though I think it's cute. Sprout has been marketed quite significantly over the past 50 plus years. Today there are many different Sprout dolls available to collect, including plush toys and plastic dolls. Along with the Green Giant, Sprout is sometimes marketed along side the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Knickerbocker Rag Dolls, circa 1975

Knickerbocker was a toy manufacturer that produced most of the popular plush toys throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. From what I've seen most of their catalogue was aimed at girls, with rag doll series from the mid 70's such as Raggedy Ann and Holly Hobby. Later, the company made a wide range of dolls, including rag dolls, based on the 1982 movie Annie. Any of the Knickerbocker rag dolls that boys played with were generally not exclusively for boys, but could be played with by any child, boy or girl, such as the Sesame Street or Hanna Barbara Rag Dolls.

Sesame Street rag dolls, by Knickerbocker, 1976

These Sesame Street rag dolls were produced by Knickerbocker in the mid 1970's. They don't have a date on the manufacturer tag but I've seen these dolls featured in a 1976 toy catalogue. The Count, at far left, is a 14 inch talking doll but unfortunately this one no longer works so I don't know what it says. It was only offered as a talking doll, non-talking versions of the Count rag doll were never produced. His clothes are not removable like Ernie and Bert, which would have made for an interesting rag doll, but I still think this Count doll is really cool!

Talking versions of the 14 inch Ernie and Bert were also made as part of the series with the talking Count, but the Ernie and Bert dolls shown here are the non-talking versions. In addition to the Count, Ernie and Bert, a doll of the Sesame Street character Betty Lou was also produced, which I believe may have been 14 inches tall. As Knickerbocker often made various different sizes for their rag dolls, larger and smaller Ernie and Bert rag dolls were also very popular in the mid to late 1970's, seen below. The 9 inch Ernie and Bert dolls are shown above.

All the different sizes for the Ernie and Bert rag dolls by Knickerbocker, missing only the 15 inch Ernie (seen in the photo with the Count above). The sizes are, from smallest to biggest, 4 inch, 6 inch, 9 inch, 15 inch and 25 inch. The 25 inch Bert is harder to find than Ernie as the 25 inch Ernie doll was very popular toy in it's time. A 4 inch version of the Count was also made to go with the 4 inch Ernie and Bert, along with Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. The 4 inch dolls were sold separately in a variety of boxed or carded sets with different playsets and plastic vehicles.

I've included these Sesame Street rag dolls, with more photos and info, on the TV Character dolls page of this blog: http://mikeysdolls.blogspot.ca/p/tv-character-dolls.html

Fido Dido, 13 inch rag doll by Hasbro, 1985

Fido Dido reached his height in popularity during the mid 1980s and early 1990s when he was featured in a series of 7UP soft drink commercials. During this time, Hasbro produced a rag doll of Fido that was sold wearing one of six different T-shirts, and was packaged in a rather large box considering the size of the doll. I recall these dolls didn't sell very well and were eventually discounted as clearance in retail stores. All these years later the dolls have become quite collectable for nostalgic reasons and, thanks to their original lack of retail success, are still easy to find nice and clean in their original boxes. This is quite a good turn of events for present day Fido fans, considering that these Fido dolls are made entirely out of white fabric which could get dirty quite easily! (Perhaps that was why they didn't sell very well to begin with?) In any case, this is a very interesting rag doll and Fido is a funny "cool" character that I've always liked.

The back of Fido's shirt has one of the many funny quotes that Fido is known for.

Lift up Fido's shirt, and his back has more funny text, the meaning of which makes perfect logical sense...I think?!? Click the photo to enlarge for reading.
It's fitting that Fido was used for advertising 7UP and also ended up being made as a rag doll, as since the 1960s, many, many advertising characters followed a popular trend to be marketed as a rag doll including Green Giant and Sprout, Ronald McDonald, Hamburglar, Burger King, Long John Silvers, Chiquita Bananas, Honey Smacks, Tony Tiger, Sugar Bear, Nestle Little Hans, Mr. Peanut, Pillsbury Dough Boy, Campbell's Kid, Charley Tuna and many others!
Poplar TV characters to be given the rag doll treatment include The Fonz, Mork, Jimmy Walker, Flip Wilson/Geraldine, Archie from Archie Comics, Shari Lewis (with Lamb Chop), many wrestling characters, and many others.
I'm sure I'll end up with more rag dolls in the collection some day, as I do like this style of doll, but for now this is all the info I have about Rag Dolls! 
Photos and text copyright Mike Artelle, 2016

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