Decades before Cabbage Patch, before Barbie, and before Betsy Wetsy, American girls had a favorite doll. She didn’t come with a birth certificate, a trousseau, or diapers. But she was loved just as much as any doll any girl ever owned. Her name was Raggedy Ann.
A man named Johnny Gruelle had a daughter named – no, not Ann – Marcella, who showed her daddy a simple rag doll, onto which he drew a face. He combined James Whitcomb Riley’s “The Raggedy Man” with Little Orphan Annie, and suggested they call the doll Raggedy Ann. Marcella loved it so much that Gruelle figured other children might like it, too. Smart man.
As it happens, Mr. Gruelle was an illustrator and children’s book author, and he wrote Raggedy Ann Stories in 1918, the first year the handmade dolls were produced for sale. You may not even recognize the originals as Raggedy Anns, based on their evolution over the decades. Raggedy Andy Stories followed in 1921.
By their nature, Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls are easily made. Patterns by McCall’s have been on the market since 1940. Today, Simon & Schuster and Hasbro have trademarks on versions of the doll, but the original doll and the original books are now in the public domain.
Those who truly love the dolls have an annual event that’s a must. It’s the Raggedy Ann Festival, held in 2010 on April 17 in Cynthiana, Kentucky. There’s a parade, and a coloring contest, and…you know.