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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: Raggedy Ann

In 1915, Johnny Gruelle, American artist, political cartoonist, children's book and comics author, illustrator, and storyteller, patented his Raggedy Ann doll (US Patent D47789).

There are many stories around how Raggedy Ann came to be, some tragic. The most likely history, Gruelle found a long-forgotten, homemade rag doll from the attic of his parents' Indianapolis home sometime around the turn of the 20th century, a few years before the couple's daughter was born. He fixed it up, sewing buttons where the eyes were missing. When his daughter was born, he would watch as she played with it and other dolls and creates stories around what she did.

One story circulated fairly widely was that Gruelle created Raggedy Ann as a tribute following her death at age 13 from an infected vaccine. While the death of Gruelle's daughter is tragically true, historians note that Gruelle's May 28, 1915, U.S. Patent D47789 application for the design of the prototype that became the Raggedy Ann doll was already in progress around the time that Marcella fell ill, and the artist received final approval by the U.S. Patent office on September 7, 1915, the same month as Marcella's death.

Worth noting, Raggedy Ann became a symbol for the anti-vaccination movement, even though the cause of her death was a tainted vaccine, not from side effects from the vaccination itself.

Gruelle's first Raggedy Ann book came out in 1918 and was so successful that he continued to write and illustrate at least one Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy story each year until his death in 1938. In addition to books, he also wrote lyrics for musical compositions that were published as sheet music and songbooks for children.

Was Raggedy Ann the first doll to be produced connected to a book? I did a bit of research here and the earliest reference I could find to anything similar...The London toy novelty firm, S. & J. Fuller, produced a series of books between 1810 and 1816 that came with a paper doll and various outfits, hand-colored and cut-out. The books typically had a morality based story and as each story was told, the accompanying paper doll would be dressed in the appropriate outfit.

Know of any earlier examples?


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