After World War II, the various types of plastic that were available by then quickly replaced most other materials.
Hard-plastic dolls were first introduced in the late ’40s, when new plastics developed during World War II were adopted by civilian manufacturers. Well-established doll makers like Alexander Doll Company and Ideal Toy Company started producing many of their most popular doll lines in hard plastic instead of the more expensive, more labor-intensive, and less durable materials of dolls past—composition, bisque, or china. They were also quick to forego earlier plastics like rubber and celluloid, which wore out easily. In the case of celluloid, the dolls were also highly flammable.
New plastics let companies churn out dolls with very basic molds faster than ever before. Some of these new hard plastic dolls were well-designed but not very well finished, with visible seams from the mold. Low-grade plastics could also crack, presenting a safety hazard. That said, hard plastic material was favored for more high-end plastic dolls because it could be used to create detailed features, even after the more flexible plastics known as “vinyl” were introduced in the 1950s. Hard plastic and vinyl dolls often had eyes that could open and close, as well as joints on the hips, shoulders, and wrists.
This was also the time when the Baby Boomers were born. When the war ended in 1945, millions of veterans returned home and were forced to re-integrate into civilian life. They married, started families, pursued higher education, and bought their first homes, supported by government benefits. This group, whose formative years covered the Great Depression, was a generation hardened by poverty and deprived of the security of a home or job. Now thriving on the American Dream, life was simple, jobs were plentiful, and a record number of babies were born. Consumption flourished, and so did the toy industry.
In the late 1940s, Vogue introduced a 7 1/2 inch hard plastic toddler doll that was officially named Ginny in 1951. Ginny was so successful that she had many imitators – Ginger, Muffie, Pam and countless others. Madame Alexander introduced their Alexander-kins, eight-inch dolls made of plastic, in 1953. They also became known as Wendy or Wendy-kins.
Terri Lee, introduced in 1946 and manufactured until 1962 (reproductions were made in the 2000s), was another child doll that was very successful. She was 16″. A 10″ version was added in 1954.
Toni-type dolls representing older girls were still popular. Arranbee´s Nanette and Alexander´s Wendy Ann were two successful examples.
Baby dolls like Tiny Tears (who could cry), Betsy Wetsy (who could wet herself) and Toodles also held their popularity.
Dolls that had some type of function were also all the rage. Dolls with a walking mechanism had been around since the 19th century. The modern walkers used a spring mechanism. There were Ginny type walkers as well as larger dolls. Among the best known were Madame Alexander´s Winnie and Binnie Walkers (1953 – 1955; 15, 18 or 25″ tall, all hard plastic jointed body, wigged; the Winnie Walker doll has a wig that is glued on the head and the Binnie Walker doll has rooted hair on a a vinyl skull cap. Both used the Cissy face mold so this is the only way to tell the difference between the dolls.). Ideal offered Saucy Walker.
Betsy McCall was introduced as a paper doll in McCall´s magazine in 1951. A first vinyl doll was produced the same year. There was also a pattern for a rag doll issued in 1956.
A slim 8″ doll (reproduced by Robert Tonner as Tiny Betsy in the 200os) was made from 1957 and was very popular.
In the 1950s, the concept of the teenager emerged, as the Baby Boomers reached, well, their teens and formed a large part of the demographic that had a disposeable income and – for the first time – a growing industry catering to their lifestyle. Teenagers had their own music (Rock´n´roll), their own fashion and fads. While some adults mistrusted part of that teenage culture as “juvenile delinquency”, it was also glamourized. This was the emergence of glamour dolls or high-heeled fashion dolls, representing teenagersat their most wholesome – with round, childlike faces and modestly mature figures.
The first Glamour Dolls were Madame Alexander´s Cissy (1955) and Revlon´s Miss Revlon (1956). Plenty of others followed. The 8″ toddlers such as Ginny and Ginger got older sisters named Jill, Miss Ginger or Miss Suzette. American Character made a fashion doll named Toni. Deluxe Reading Corp. offered cheap grocery store glamour dolls. Dollikin was a multi-jointed, highly poseable glamour doll. These dolls were available in all sizes from 8″ to 30″.
Dennis the Menace was character from an American comic strip introduced in 1951 (not to be mixed up with the eponymous character from the British comic strip introduced in the same year). A doll version of the blonde mischief-maker was issued in 1957 and was highly popular.
1950s patterns for cloth dolls
1959 saw the introduction of the troll dolls by Dam.
Chatty Cathy, also introduced in 1959, could speak 11 different phrases when a ring was pulled.
Brikette was a licensed copy of an Italian doll made by Bonomi. Vogue’s 22″ version was introduced in 1959 and bright orange hair, flirty green eyes and a ball-jointed waist. A year later they introduced a 16″ version who didn’t have the flirty eyes. Platinum blonde and brunette dolls were added to the line as well. She had extra outfits available. The original version of Brikette was made for two years, but was reintroduced in 1979 in a very different version.
1959 also saw the introduction of the 36″ Playpal doll family, starting with Patti Playpal.
And then, of course, there was the doll that changed much of the industry: Barbie. Based on the German Bild Lilli doll (a novelty for adults) and conceived as a threedimensional version of a paper doll, the “teenage fashion model” was different from any other doll on the market. Barbie would have this face (with molded lashes) in minor variations until 1967 when Twist ´n´Turn Barbie was introduced with a new face sculpt.
Some mothers were sceptical about the hourglass figure and the adult face, however, and preferred dolls like Tammy (introduced in 1962) that combined the childlike face and not-quite-so-curvy shape of the glamour dolls. Soon after her release, Tammy was licensed to Palitoy who made a version for the UK market called Sindy (introduced in 1963).
While Tammy was discontinued after a few years, Sindy remained popular well into the 1980s (and, with a changed concept, is still available today). In the late 1960s, she was even available in the US.
The successful “basic doll + oodles of accessories” concept was translated into a “doll” for boys in 1964 with G.I.Joe – the first “action figure” (called that because boys were not supposed to play with dolls).
Meanwhile, Barbie had quickly conquered the “teenage doll” market. The glamour dolls had all but vanished, supplanted by Barbie and about a million copycat dolls and clones. Some had quite interesting original features, like changeable heads with different expressions. Black clone fashion dolls were on the market well before Barbie got her first AA friends and siblings (before Barbie´s AA friends Julia and Christie, a short-lived AA version of her cousin Francie was made). Hair play became a thing and dolls like “Miss Barbie” and “Fashion Queen Barbie” had short molded hair upon which you could fit one of several wigs. This concept was popular well into the 1970s and you could get separate clone doll heads with wigs.
Tressy was a popular Barbie rival between 1963 – 67. She was marketed as even more glamorous than Barbie. While Barbie was presented as an all-American girl next door character, and her friends were teenagers as well, Tressy had an apartment in New York, glamorous outfits and most importantly, a special “grow-hair” feature that allowed the doll’s hair to “grow” and be pulled back in. Tressy was very successful until the company that produced her (American Character) went bankrupt on unrelated issues, and the molds and patents were eventually purchased by Ideal. Various licensed foreign versions of Tressy were made (by Palitoy in the UK, Bella in France, or Schildkroet in Germany who named her Gaby; among others).
Ideal later used the grow hair mechanism on a highly successful line of 18″ fashion dolls introduced in 1968: Crissy and friends.
Hair play was a big thing and eventually someone had to have the idea to offer just the head for hair play, rather than a whole doll. The earliest hair play head I could find was made in 1967 by Kaysan/Jolly Toys.
For those who could not relate to the teenage dolls, little girl dolls were still as popular as ever. Many were marketed as little sisters to the teenage fashion dolls. Barbie had Skipper, Tammy had Pepper, Sindy had Patch, Tressy had Cricket (named Toots in the UK). Most were around 8″. In 1967, Licca was introduced in Japan.
Remco offered the Littlechap Family, consisting of John (the dad, a doctor); Lisa (the mom, a glamourous housewife); teen sister Judy and child sister Libby.
A charming little girl without a teenage sister was Penny Brite (1963 – 1970).
Liddle Kiddles were introduced by Mattel in 1966 and produced until 1970. They were tiny dolls, ranging from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches tall, with pose-able limbs and rooted hair. Each doll came with accessories and a storybook, most of them came with a comb. The inital batch was made to resemble little children in neighborhoods across America, but there were also storybook characters, film and tv characters and fantastic creations later on.
Some of the popular TV tie-in dolls of the time were Pebbles Flintstone (1962 – 64); Buffy from “Family Affair” (1966-1971) and her doll, Mrs. Beasley; Dr.Ben Casey (1962-66); and characters from “Howdy Doody”. Julia is notable, as well as Christie, Barbie´s first AA friend. Both dolls shared the same sculpt.
Peteena, the “Poodle in a bikini”, was a 9 1/2 inch fashion doll produced by Hasbro for only a single year- 1966. The poodle was the iconic dog in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1967, Remco introduced their Pocketbook Doll series consisting of 5 1/2″ tall Heidi and friends. You could press the button on their tummy and they wave their arm, rooted hair jointed vinyl body, painted facial features.
Dolly Darlings made from 1965-67 are 4″ dolls with molded hair. They came packaged in round plastic hatbox-type cases with accessories. A couple of years later, Dolly Darlings had rooted hair and were packaged in cardboard boxes with cello fronts or on bubble cards. Many different dolls were issued. Four different play rooms were also sold.
Flatsy Dolls are flat dolls that were made by Ideal Toy Company from 1969 through 1973. Flatsys have long hair, which goes to the floor, generally in vivid colors (like bright blue, bright yellow, pink, etc.). They are made of soft vinyl with wires inside the limbs, neck, and body which make them posable. At the time little girls collected them and now they are collectors items. (A recent remake has been available through Imaginarium stores.)
Remco also had a line of bobblehead dolls of popular bands or tv characters such as the Addams Family.
1960s patterns for cloth dolls
Raggedy Ann was still as popular as ever. This style of Ann was sold from 1962-1983.
The 1960s saw a trend of popular paintings showing big-eyed children, often pitiful or cutesy street urchins. Among the artists known for this style are “Lee”, “Idylle”, Margaret Keane, Ozz Franca and Jean Maio. This trend also had some impact on the doll industry.
In 1964, Royal Doll Co. made a doll with haunting big black eyes named “Lonely Lisa“. A 16” doll with a similar look was sold as “Love Me Linda” by Vogue Co. (see Tammy´s comment below for more information on both dolls – thank you, Tammy!) Another strikingly similar 8″ doll made in Hong Kong was first introduced in the 1960s as “Sad Eyes Doll”. Marketed under many different names, these dolls are probably best known as “Susie Sad Eyes” or “Susie Slicker” today.
Poor Pitiful Pearl, based on a 1958 cartoon character, was first made in doll form in 1958 and popular (made by various companies) well into the 1970s.
In 1965, Hasbro introduced Little MissNoName.
Kamar was founded in 1948 as a small wooden furniture import/export business. By the late 1950s, Pascale Kamar had designed his first successful toy: a wiry elfin character doll with white Angora hair named Hexter. By the early 1960s, Pascale had found his true calling and was designing his own unique, charmingly named creatures by the hundreds. Kamar also designed dolls, such as the adorable big-eyed mod Living Dolls line that were made in Japan in the late 1960s.(Source)
The best-known big eyed doll today, Blythe, was made by Kenner in one year only – 1972. She was not a success until photographer, Gina Garan made her popular in the late 1990s.
Leggy dolls were short-lived 10″ dolls with a colorful mod wardrobe and disproportionately long (7″!) legs. They were made in 1972-1973.
Another short-lived quirky and colorful doll was Emerald the Witch (1972).
Dawn dolls were made by Topper between 1970 and 1973. They were 6.5″ fashion dolls and more popular than Barbie in their day. Mattel answered the challenge with their own 6.5″ line, the Rock Flowers (1971). In England, Palitoy had a same size line named Pippa.
World of Love dolls were made in 1971-72. With names like Love, Flower and Peace, these dolls embodied the best qualities of the youth culture of the late sixties and early seventies. They are 9″ tall and had many extra outfits, a carrying case and a few playsets. There are five girl dolls plus Adam, a boy with molded hair. The dolls were also sold in Europe by Matchbox Toys under the name Disco Girls and MissMatchbox from 1972 to 1977.
Their size was similar to the highly popular action figures released by Mego from 1971. They made DC and Marvel super heroes, and popular television characters (Wizard of Oz, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek) between 1972 and 1983.
Ideal´s Crissy was introduced at Toy Fair 1969. This 18″ girl doll shared Tressy´s growing hair mechanism. (An 18″ doll named Tressy was issued for a short time as a store exclusive.) The line, which included several 18″ friends and 15″ and 12″ little sisters was very popular throughout the 1970s.
Sasha Morgenthaler, a Swiss doll artist, decided in the 1960s to mass-produce dolls at reasonable prices after years of making dolls herself for the studio, on commission, and for private individuals. Two companies were licensed to produce the dolls: Götz in Germany (1965 – 1969, 1995 – 2001) and Frido (later Trendon) in the UK (1966 to 1986). Morgenthaler created face sculpts for her dolls with subtle expressions to not dictate artificially exaggerated smiles, her concern that children surviving the horrors of WWII would not relate to dolls so happy in times of terror. Although production started in the 1960s, the dolls are mostly associated with the 1970s today; perhaps because they resonate with the spirit of sobriety that spread in the mid-1970s in the wake of the environmental and policital scandals, replacing the bright and colorful late 1960s. Sasha doll page.
In 1971, Barbie was given a tan and a new face sculpt (used before for her friend Stacie) in the Sun Set/Malibu line of dolls. This sculpt would only be used on the tan Malibu Barbie. The line was issued until the early 1980s but later Malibu Barbies (after ca.1977) have the Superstar Face, introduced in 1976.
In 1972, a change in legislation (TitleIX, US Department of Education) started an increase of girls´ participation in sports. This trend was reflected in the doll world by dolls such as Dusty, introduced by Kenner in 1974. She had blonde hair and a tan, like Malibu Barbie, and like her, was into all kinds of sports.
The disillusionment of the 1970s, combined with the upcoming bicentennial of the USA, made many people yearn for an idealized past and a “simple life”. Crafts and home-made things were popular, as were nostalgic TV shows such as “Little House on the Prairie” or “The Waltons”. This overall trend was also reflected in the doll industry.
In 1974, Knickerbocker Toys licensed the Holly Hobbie greeting card character created by the illustrator of the same name for a line of rag dolls, which were a popular toy for young American girls for several years.
Mattel´s Sunshine Family was in production from 1974 through 1978. There were craft kids, and “evidently Mom and Dad Sunshine were grown-up hippies and very concerned about the environment, since many of their craft kits focused on recycling and similar topics.The Sunshine Family was also produced as an historical line of dolls, including a Pioneer Girl, a Southern Belle, and an Indian Maiden.” (about.com).
There was also Jody, the Country Girl, a 9″ doll offered around 1975.
The vintage Mattel Honey Hill Bunch dolls are 4″ tall, have vinyl heads and cloth bodies, rooted hair, painted facial features and came accessorized. On at least one hand is a piece of velcro to hold hands with another doll or to hold an accessory. Dolls and accessories were on the market from 1976-1978. They depict an idealized, old-fashioned neighborhood of friends, like an updated version of “Our Gang”.
The nostalgia for a simpler, seemimgly better time, also manifested itself in a 1950s trend. The TV show “Happy Days” was a huge success and had several spinoffs. 1950s songs were covered by many acts, Elvis enjoyed a huge wave of popularity (shortly before his death, sadly). The movie “Grease” is another example of this fashion.
At the same time, there was the disco trend and glam rock. This, too, had its counterpart in the world of dolls.
Tiffany Taylor (introduced in 1974) was another hair play doll. There was also a 12″ version named Tuesday Taylor.
In 1976, Barbie was given another makeover with a broad smile and bent arms. The Superstar Barbie face sculpt would prove to be one of the most popular ones ever and would be sold (with small variations) for the next two decades. The T´n`T face sculpt was still used for a few dolls in the late 1970s but eventually phased out, as was the Malibu/Stacie face.
In 1975, Mego launched a highly successful 12½ inch celebrity doll line, to directly compete with Mattel’s Barbie doll. The first dolls were Sonny and Cher, with Bob Mackie designing an extensive wardrobe for Cher. Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Diana Ross, Suzanne Somers, and The Captain and Tennille celebrity dolls followed in 1977 and 1978. Mattel´s most popular celebrity dolls at the time were Donny & Marie Osmond (1976).
While many of the shows that received dolls/action figures were “jiggle television” , they also provided quite a few strong and active (albeit sparesely dressed) heroines for girls. Charlie´s Angels, the Bionic Woman, or Wonder Woman may have been prone to losing items of clothing – but they were also clever, courageous, and capable.
In the mid-1970s, the rights to produce the Ginny doll had been bought by Lesney Corp.
They decided to completely restyle her in an attempt to spark new interest in her. Today she is known as the “Skinny” Ginny. Her body style was slimmed down and she no longer has the appearance of a toddler, but looks more like a young school age child. She came with many outfits and accessories for play, but her popularily never caught on as much as the earlier dolls of the 50s. (http://www.dollinfo.com/ginny70lesneysk.htm)
Big Jim was a line of action figures marketed to boys from 1972-86. The emphasis was on sports and adventures rather than GI Joe´s military.
In 1977, Star Wars (then not yet “Episode IV”) hit the cinemas and was a huge success. While the action figures it sparked are not dolls, they were such a staple of late 1970s toy aisles they need to be included here.
The only American Girl dolls representing the 1950s to 1970s so far are Julie and Ivy.
Julie and Ivy, 1974
No dolls have been issued for them, although a Chinese doll is mentioned in her stories. In “Happy New Year, Julie”,
Julie and Ivy exchange Christmas presents. Julie gives Ivy a pillow she made where Ivy’s name is written in Chinese. Ivy gives Julie a Chinese doll “with rose-red cheeks and shiny black hair” that resembles Ivy’s Chinese doll except Ivy’s doll wears a traditional red dress while Julie’s wears a traditional blue (turquoise) dress. Ivy’s doll is named Li Ming while Julie’s is named Yue Yan. Both Li Ming and Yue Yan will become more prominent in a later book in the Julie Mystery series, The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter. (Source). Nevertheless, they have not been produced.
This is how they would have looked like.
Instead, Julie gets a small-scale reproduction of 1973 Quick Curl Barbie styling head, which is spot-on (no surprise given the fact American Girl is a subsidiary of Mattel).