Black Francie reproduction, 1997
As we have seen in the previous post, while a few attempts at more realistic black dolls were made well before the 1960s, they were no huge overall success. While there was a black version of most popular dolls, they were usually using the regular mold and just changed vinyl colors – like Mattel did with their black version of Barbie´s cousin Francie, issued in 1967, which was a black version of the regular Francie sculpt. It would take until the end of the decade before more black dolls with a dedicated, realistic sculpt came onto the market. “The first Black doll to be given the name Barbie did not arrive on the doll scene until 1979 (box year) or 1980 (market year).” Source
Barbie´s Black Friends – 1967 -1980s
In 1968, Barbie introduced her new friend Christie, who had her own sculpt (with the exception of Live Action Christie, 1971-73, who shared the vintage Midge/PJ sculpt – the only black doll to do so.). Christie was on the market with this sculpt until 1977. The mold was also used for Barbie´s celebrity friend Julia, issued in 1969 and based on Diahann Caroll who played Julia Baker, a widowed single Mom and Registered Nurse, in the hit TV show “Julia” that ran from 1968 to 1971. This was a ground breaking role because it was one of the first prime time shows to feature an African American woman in a “non-stereotypical” role. Diahann Carroll won a Golden Globe for her role as Julia.
In 1977-78, Christie shared the new Superstar mold with her friend Barbie.In 1975-76, Barbie had a second black friend named Cara who shared the Steffie mold (introduced in 1972 for a white friend of Barbie´s, also known as Miss America). This mold was later used for Christie (1978-1982); for the first ethic incarnations of Barbie herself, starting with Hawaiian Barbie (1975, a limited department store special) and black and hispanic Barbie (1979/80), and is still in use today – usually for Barbie and her (white) friend Summer.
Christie´s boy friend Brad was only around for two years (1970 – 72). A doll with the same sculpt was released in 1975 in the “Free Moving” line as Curtis, Cara’s boyfriend. A black Ken sporting an afro was issued as Sunsational Malibu Ken in 1981, close to the release of the first black Barbie. Unlike his girlfriend, who shared the Steffie mold, he had a new and unique head sculpt that was only used on this release.
Before there was Stacie, Kelly, and Chelsea, Barbie and Skipper had a youngest sister named Tutti. She was an 8″ doll with a bendable rubber body with a wire skeleton inside. Tutti was on the market in America between 1965 – 1971 only, but remained available in Europe and Canada until 1976. She had many friends. Carla, the black one, shared the mold of the white girl, Chris, and was only available in Europe. The Tutti body was also used for a related, but separate line called Pretty Pairs (1970) which always paired one doll with their favourite toy. The black Pretty Pair was Nan´n´Fran – Nan, the little girl, shared Tutti´s mold – and her baby doll, Fran.
Crissy Family 1969 – 1976
Left: The main members of the Black Crissy™ doll family, L-R: Crissy’s cousin, Velvet; Movin’ Groovin’ Crissy, Crissy dressed in orange lace dress, the elusive Tressy, and Velvet’s little sister, Cinnamon (in front).Right: Tara Source
Ideal´s Crissy, introduced in 1969, was one of the most popular doll lines of the early 1970s. The growing hair feature – a adjustable lock of hair that emerged from an opening in the top of the doll’s head, so a child could choose to make the hair short or long – had been used in the 12″ American Character Tressy doll (which was also available in a black version) and a 1970 Tressy by Ideal before. Crissy was an 18″ doll, and had many friends, including a 16″ cousin named Velvet. All production models of the Crissy and Velvet dolls, except for “Talky Crissy” & “Talky Velvet”, also had an African-American version doll. In 1976, Ideal produced a new growing hair doll named “Tara.” This doll’s face mold had more realistic and ethnically correct African-American features. Although she was marketed much later than any of the other Ideal growing hair dolls, “Tara” was made with the same body, arm and leg molds as the Velvet doll. Tara is considered by some collectors as part of the Crissy “family” of dolls.Source
A black Crissy doll was also marketed as “Diana Ross” in 1969-
Shindana Toys 1969 – 1980s
Formed in 1968 in the aftermath of the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, California, Shindana Toys is credited as the first major doll company to mass-produce ethnically-correct black dolls. Their “dolls made by a dream” with realistic African facial features remain popular among black-doll collectors. Shindana, which means ‘competitor’ in Swahili, was an initiative launched by Operation Bootstrap, a “self-help job training program” that emerged following the Congress of Racial Equality’s strategic shift from “nonviolent direct action to community organizing”. In its first year, Shindana produced a single product – a Black doll named Baby Nancy, the first ethnically correct Black doll made in America (1969). Many other dolls followed, eventually, the company marked a line of 32 Black dolls and 6 Black-oriented games. Shindana produced baby dolls, talking dolls, cloth dolls, fashion dolls, and action figures inspired by black celebrities such as Flip Wilson, Jimme “J.J.” Walker, Marla Gibbs, Redd Foxx, Diana Ross, and Michael Jackson. The box of Shindana’s Career Girl Wanda fashion doll contained pictures of black women in Wanda’s various jobs such as nurse, skydiver, tennis player, and singer.
“Shindana was one of the first toy companies that regularly came out with dolls that actually had black features … The dolls’ noses were a little bit wider, and they had shorter, nappier hair, or afros on them. The complexions were darker than most dolls that people had seen. It was also the first time an American doll company had ever used African names, like Baby Zuri, Malaika, Tamu. Before, the dolls were always Cathy, Nancy, Betty, or whatever. ” SourceSource
While Shindana is well known for being the first US company to mass produce ethnically correct Black dolls, the company incorporated Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Native American dolls into their product lines before operations ceased in the early 1980s. Source (plus Wikipedia)
B.Wright´s Toy Company
Beatrice Wright Brewington, an African American entrepreneur, founded B. Wright’s Toy Company, Inc. and mass-produced black dolls with ethnically correct features in the late 1960s. Very little is known about these “Ethnic People Dolls.” today. The most popular are the 19-inch toddler dolls Christine and Christopher, who have rooted hair and sleep eyes, modeled after Wright’s own children. Wright, which sold its molds to Totsy Toys, went out of business by the mid-1980s. Source
Sasha Dolls: Caleb and Cora 1965 – 2001
Sasha dolls are a type and series of doll created by Swiss artist and dollmaker Sasha Morgenthaler (1893–1975), produced in Germany and the United Kingdom beginning in the late 1960s. Two companies were licensed to produce the dolls: Götz in Germany and Frido (later Trendon) in the UK. Production in Germany ran from 1965 to 1969 and from 1995 to 2001, while the UK production ran from 1966 to 1986.
Sasha dolls are characterized by stylized faces with a serious, open expression that seems to make them more adaptable to imaginative play than if they were forever smiling. Morgenthaler’s original idea was for the dolls to represent an image of universal childhood, so from the beginning of mass-production, the vinyl was coffee-coloured so that they would not appear to belong to any one ethnic group. In the early 1970s, black dolls were introduced, first in an extremely dark complexion, then in a lighter complexion in the latter part of the decade. Around 1980, the “skin” tone of most of the “Caucasian” dolls was lightened. The generic name for the dolls is “Sasha” after their creator. Some dolls have their own names, however. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, “Caucasian” boy dolls were known as “Gregor”, black girl dolls were known as “Cora“, and black boy dolls were known as “Caleb“. When production resumed in 1995, many of the dolls were given individual names by the manufacturer, but all are still identified by the collective name of “Sasha”.(Wikipedia)
1970 – 1973 Dale
Dawn dolls – small fashion dolls measuring 6.5 inches in height – were made by Topper between 1970 and 1973. They were quite popular and they topped sales of Barbie for a while, but were discontinued when Topper went out of business in 1973. The first set of Dawn dolls was released by Topper Toys in 1970 and included AA Dale. [Wikipedia].
The line quickly gained competitors, such as Mattel´s Rock Flowers (1971 – 1974). The black doll in this line was Rosemary.
1971 – 1973 World of Love / 1972 – 1977 Miss Matchbox /Disco Girls
In 1970, Hasbro introduced the 9″ World of Love dolls. There were four girls named Love, Flower, Soul and Music, plus one boy – Adam. Lesney/Matchbox sold the dolls in Europe as Miss Matchbox or Disco Girls. While the white characters – Tia, Dee, and Britt, and the guy, Tony – had different sculpts (Britt shared hers with a later character, Gina, though), the black girl, Domino, was exactly the same doll as her American counterpart, Soul. (She was the coolest anyway.) Many of the outfits were the same on both sides of the Atlantic, too, though they had different names.
1972 Hasbro Aimee
Aimée – sold in both a black and white version – was Hasbro’s response to the overwhelming popularity of Ideal’s Crissy family of dolls, who had a “growing hair” feature and a great mod wardrobe. Introduced in 1972, Aimée was an 18″ doll with an unusual hair play feature. She has holes in her head, into which hairpieces and wigs with special plugs will fit. Besides the long cotton dress with gold braid trim that she was sold in, Aimée had six extra gowns that could be purchased, and six extra hairpieces. ´Source
Remco´s Mimi, also issued in 1972, was a 20″ competitor to Crissy and Aimee. Mimi was made in black and white versions (both very rare today) and had a voice box that allowed her to sing “I´d like to teach the world to sing” in different languages.
1974 – 1976 Tiffany Taylor and Taylor Jones
Both Ideal´s 18″ Tiffany Taylor and 12″ Tuesday Taylor dolls had headcaps that could be turned, and were rooted with different hair, so you could switch hair color and style. Both came in a white and black version; the black version of Tuesday Taylor was called Taylor Jones.
1975 -1978 Mego Celebrities
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. Diana Ross followed in 1977.
The Happy Family 1975 -1978
Hot on the heels of the flower child era, back in 1974, Mattel introduced a set of dolls that were sort of the anti-Barbie: The Sunshine Family. … Mom, dad and baby — Stephie, Steve and Sweets — did stuff like … running a craft shack out of the back of their camper. After the original toys achieved some success, the grandparents and some pets were introduced, and, soon thereafter, the neighborhood welcomed “The Happy Family,” the SF’s African-American counterparts — Hattie, Hal and Hon. Source In later incarnations, a toddler daughter was added.
“In 1974, Kenner manufactured this pair of dolls who were roughly the height of Barbie dolls (11 1/2” tall) but resembled them in no other particular: Their waists were thicker, their chests smaller, and their feet flat, rather than form molded to accommodate stiletto heels. Instead, Dusty and Skye wore platform sandals, tennis shoes, and cowboy boots. Their waists and wrists were jointed; their hands were molded to hold tennis rackets, golf clubs, and fishing gear; and the knees were bendable to facilitate the various sports around which their accessories revolved. It is probably no coincidence that these dolls hit the market shortly after Title IX of the Education Act Amendments (1972) opened up the full range of academic-based athletics to girls and young women. These dolls and their accessories seemed designed to confront head-on the issues of class, race, gender, and sexual orientation that surged through 1970s American culture… as the women’s movement gained momentum, Civil Rights legislation began to take serious effect throughout the nation, and the Vietnam War turned increasingly cynical scrutiny to class privilege.” (Source)
Unfortunately, Dusty and her friend Skye were rather short-lived, being less glamorous than Barbie and (more importantly) not able to share her clothes. Since mothers tended to buy dolls that could share an existing dolls´ wardrobe rather than investing in ones that needed their own, no 12″ fashion doll that had a dramatically different shape from Barbie was able to last on the market until the advent of Bratz in the 2000s.
Dana 1979 – 1981
Kenner’s Darci Cover Girl was unveiled at the 1979 Toy Fair as a fashion model on-the-go. With a body construction very similar to that of Dusty and Skye, she was intended to provide direct competition to Mattel’s Barbie. She, too, could not share Barbie´s clothes – but had her own glamorous fashion model wardrobe. Thanks to Kenner’s heavy advertising, Darci and her friends Erica and Dana (AA) sold very successfully in her first year, 1979 but then tanked – in 1981, Kenner shut down the disco ball on Darci’s dance floor due to disappointing sales. Source
Vogue´s 8″ Ginny dolls had been in production since the 1950s. Around 1977, Ginny was changed from a toddler to a school girl. Since Vogue was a subsidiary of Lesney at the time, these dolls are known as “Lesney Ginny” (there is also a toddler Lesney Ginny) and “Skinny Ginny”. The AA version of Skinny Ginny was marketed as Ginnette (which, in the 1950s and 1960s, had been the name of Ginny´s baby sister). There were also series of “International Brides” (No-one was blinking an eye at the concept of school girl brides then… ) and “Friends of Faraway Lands”. source