Author: DOLLS Magazine Contributor

On the Doll Trail: All Points North

Just off New Jersey’s suburban Route 202, about an hour north of Philadelphia and past roadside vendors selling fresh produce, sits a squat, gray-columned warehouse. At first blush the depot looks bland, like storage for dusty, unloved objects. But step inside the building and you’ll be greeted by Northlandz, an unlikely doll wonderland. Then ten-year-old Northlandz is a museum channeling seemingly opposite childhood passions. First is its Great American Railway, which the Guinness Book of World Records has dubbed the world’s “largest model railway.” It’s no wonder: Eight miles of track contain more than 100 trains running through monstrous...

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“My First” Barbie

The “‘My First’” Barbie appeared on the doll scene in 1980 or 1981. Her box has the 1980 copy­right date, but that of­ten means the doll was not available for sale until the following year. Whatever the correct date, most mothers agreed it was about time such a Barbie came on the market. Barbie was already the most famous doll ever. She was recognized worldwide as being the leading doll seller of all time. No one—whether great-grandparents or three-year-old children—needed an ex­planation as to who she was because everybody knew. So what was the problem? Barbie was hard to...

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Tonner Doll Co. Transforms Harry Potter

In the magical world created by author J.K. Rowling, wizards and witches have several ways to change their appearance. There’s Polyjuice Potion for one; it takes a month to brew, but with it you can transform into someone else. Extremely skilled wizards and witches can learn to become an Animagus, and transfigure at will into an animal form. Alas, we Muggles (that’s nonmagical folk) have no such abilities. To transform, we usually have to rely on the “magic” provided by the local Halloween costume shop. But there is one other way: Follow the yellow brick road up to Hurley,...

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The Fashions of Madame Alexander

Just hearing the name of Madame Alexander brings immediate images into the thoughts of doll collectors. “Other” dolls sat side by side in the dime stores and grocery stores of the land, but not the Alexander dolls. By the 1940s and 1950s, they were so exclusive they were displayed in their own glass cases in the doll section of big department stores. These were dolls with the higher price tags. These were dolls made for “looking” … not playing. What was it about these dolls that made them so different from the many others being manufactured? It certainly was...

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Clothes Make the Vogue Dolls

Children in the 1950s loved dressing their eight-inch Ginny in her many outfits.  Riding on the crest of the hard plastic doll wave in the United States, the first Ginny appeared in 1948, and went through several changes in the 1950s. Whether she was a painted eye strung doll, a sleep eye strung doll, a walker, or a bent knee walker, the little sweetie was always marked “VOGUE” on her head and “VOGUE DOLL” on her body (a patent number also appeared on the walking dolls). Even more versatile than her incarnations, were Ginny’s darling outfits. Each year little...

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Edith, Encore

Dolls are rarely in the limelight in my upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan. So I literally stopped short when, early in the autumn of 2004, I passed one of my favorite bookshops, Ivy’s Books, and saw an old felt doll, a teddy bear and a group of Dare Wright’s The Lonely Doll books filling the front window. Peering more closely at the quirky display, I quickly realized its impetus: the publication that month of a biography of Dare Wright by Jean Nathan, which had already been generating press attention in publications like The New York Times and Vogue...

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