“Raggedy Ann and Andy” program by Sandy P. to Cleveland Doll Club on Feb. 20, 2016
Synopsis and photos by Pat D.
Sandy P. gathered her collection of official Raggedy Ann & Andy and their friends, plus a sweet group of “Raggedies” and “Moptops” fashioned after the famous pair, for an impressive and varied display. She spoke of their creator, the history, the characters and some legends of this beloved doll. Some of us may have thought we knew it all about these dolls but were surprised to learn more through a fun and interesting program and a display about which Sandy and other members spoke and shared their dolls, books and memorabilia. Many thanks to all.
Raggedy Ann, and her equally spirited rag brother, Andy are the world’s best-known and most adored rag dolls. At the hand of their creator, cartoonist-illustrator-author Johnny Gruelle, the Raggedys weren’t ever simply dolls. They were literary characters as well, possessing attributes and outlooks reflecting trustworthiness, kindness, and spunk. Because Gruelle was a natural born storyteller, it followed that his dolls would star in whimsical, fanciful tales, based on fantasy and make believe.
Johnny Gruelle was born in Arcola, Illinois in 1880, the son of landscape and portrait artist Richard Gruelle. He eventually moved his young family to Indianapolis. There, mixing with his parents’ artistic and literary friends (among them, the poet James Whitcomb Riley) young Johnny developed a strong love of region, and a penchant for the fine art of storytelling. By the time Gruelle reached adulthood, he had cast his lot as a political cartoonist, turning out as many as three cartoons a day for several Midwestern newspapers. In 1910, he acted on his aspirations to become a freelance illustrator, moving to the East Coast, where he accepted a full-time position with The New York Herald (turning out weekly pages of his Sunday comic, “Mr. Twee Deedle”) as well as several book illustrating commissions.
This was during a time in American history when traditional values were being challenged by progress and social change. As a counter-reaction, many were turning back to more nostalgic diversions. Homemade and hand-crafted objects were popular fare; fairy tales, magic shows, and psychic phenomena became all the rage. All of this fit with what Gruelle was already creating, and set the stage perfectly for the folksy, whimsical doll he designed and patented in 1915 — Raggedy Ann. And, Raggedy Ann’s creation set the stage for the legends…
LEGEND #1 – HOW RAGGEDY ANN WAS BORN …a small girl bursts into her father’s art studio, trailing a battered rag doll behind her. Panting, she tells Daddy about discovering the faceless doll in Grandmother’s attic. Laying aside his afternoon’s cartoon, the father picks up the doll. He studies her face for a moment before picking up his cartooning pen and deftly applying a new, whimsical face. He suggests that Grandmother might be enlisted to sew on another shoe button to take care of a missing eye. Then, reaching for a volume of poetry behind his desk, the father browses through several by poet and family friend, James Whitcomb Riley. Compressing the titles of two of his favorites — “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphant Annie” — he asks, his daughter, “What if we call your new doll Raggedy Ann?”
ANSWER: The core account of this particular legend is also based on some factual evidence. According to Johnny Gruelle’s wife, Myrtle it was her husband, Johnny, (not her daughter, Marcella) who retrieved a long-forgotten family-made rag doll from the Indianapolis attic of his parents home, some time around the turn of the century. “There was something he wanted from the attic,” Myrtle recounted. “While he was rummaging around for it, he found an old rag doll his mother had made for his sister. He said then that the doll would make a good story.”
LEGEND #2: MARCELLA Johnny Gruelle’s real-life daughter, Marcella Delight, had an indelible influence on her father’s life and career. From serving as his model for his literary protagonist, Marcella, to being his reason for creating his Raggedy Ann in the first place, Marcella was her father’s muse.
ANSWER: The real-life Marcella had always had an influence on her father’s artwork. Gruelle’s daughter (and her playthings) regularly inspired his storylines and ideas for playthings. He wrote the stories around some of the things she did. He used to get ideas from watching her.
When the she died, at age 13, from the ravages of an infected vaccination, her parents were, understandably devastated. In November (the same month of Marcella’s death) Gruelle had been granted final approval by the U.S. Patent office for his doll called “Raggedy Ann.” But all was overshadowed by the death of his beloved daughter. Gruelle was working, the story goes, on a very special set of new stories — ones that he had previously only roughed out, as verses, but was now determined to finish in prose form, and submit to a publisher. These tales were ones that Gruelle had purportedly recited to his daughter during her final days, and were about a rag doll and her playroom pals. And, in honor of the memory of his departed daughter, Gruelle had named his star human protagonist Marcella, after his late daughter, who (like her literary counterpart) used to play “real-for-sure” Mommy to a nursery full of dolls.
LEGEND #3 – RAGGEDY ANN’S CANDY HEART In 1918, around the time his Raggedy Ann Stories was first published by the P.F. Volland Company, Johnny Gruelle rented a loftspace in Norwalk, CT, and set his family to work constructing several dozen handmade Raggedy Ann dolls to be marketed along with the books. Johnny Gruelle gave his storybook Raggedy Ann a candy heart right from the start. Word began circulating that some of the first Raggedys produced by the Gruelle’s did, indeed, possess real-life candy hearts, with “I Love You” printed on them. Worth Gruelle, Johnny’s son (who would have been 5 or 6 at the time), distinctly recalls being sent to the downstairs confectioners to buy the sugary delights to be sewn into the chest of each doll, picking out the “I Love You” hearts from those with other messages.
ANSWER: Whether these were prototype dolls for Volland to use, display dolls, or were among the first dolls to be commercially marketed, is not documented. And no one can verify just how many (or how few) of these dolls were produced by the family. No one has yet found evidence of the remains of a candy heart.
- History information from “Raggedy Ann and Andy: History and Legend” by Patricia Hall Copyright 1999
Other interesting facts about Raggedy Ann and Andy
Gruelle’s home town, Arcola, Illinois, is the former home of the annual Raggedy Ann & Andy Festival and the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum. The museum was closed and the festival discontinued in 2009. Some of the museum’s contents were donated to the Strong National Museum of Play; other parts of the collection are still in Arcola at Rockome Gardens theme park.
On March 27, 2002, Raggedy Ann was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong national Museum of Play in Rochester, NY.
Manufacturers of Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls:
- P.F. Volland Co. 1920-1934 (Non-Breakable Toy Co made dolls for Voland)
- Exposition Doll and Toy Co. 1934-mid 1935 (less than 1 yr. production RARE)
- MollyE’s Doll Outfitters (without permission) 1935-1938
- Georgene Novelties 1938-1962
- Knickerbocker Toy Co. 1963-1982
- Applause Toy Co./Russ Berrie 1983-2011
- Hasbro/Playskool 1983–Present (Master License)
- Aurora World Inc. 2012–present (exclusive plush doll license)
- Simon and Schuster (books and other media) – Present