Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Baby Nancy ~ Shindana's First Doll

Operation Bootstrap (OB) was formed in 1965 by two African American gentleman in the aftermath of the Watts, California riots, which began on August 11, 1965, and ended August 15, 1965.  In an attempt to rebuild the community, provide job training, and jobs for community residents, Louis Smith and Robert Hall are said to have organized OB with a $1,000 loan from an AA businessman.

As a result of Smith and Hall's dedication, Shindana Toys, a Division of Operation Bootstrap, opened its doors in 1968.  Local residents were employed in the Shindana doll factory, thus achieving OB's goal to provide jobs for poor African Americans and improve the economy in their community.  Follow the Operation Bootstrap (history) link below for an in-depth overview of the company, its founders, and other divisions designed to uplift the Watts (Los Angeles), California community.

From 1968 through 1983, Shindana Toys designed and manufactured dolls that looked like real black people.  Their motto was:  Dolls Made by a Dream.  Shindana, which means competitor in Swahili,  trained and employed doll makers and became the nation's largest manufacturer of black dolls and games.

Baby Nancy #1, Shindana's first doll, ©1968
 Baby Nancy (1968) was Shindana's first doll.  Several versions were released.  According to image #36 in the Operation Bootstrap Gallery PDF file (see link below), the first Baby Nancy had short curly, rooted hair.  Baby Nancy #2 had two long side ponytails with bangs.  The hair color for both versions was black.  In the image above, Baby Nancy dolls on the left and right wear their original multicolored dresses.  The use of different fabrics for dolls that may have been produced in the same year was a common practice for Shindana Toys because they used what was available.  The doll in the middle is a played-with, redressed version of Baby Nancy #1.

Baby Nancy Paper dolls, 1971

As shown above, there were also Baby Nancy paper dolls printed by Whitman ©1971, in the likeness of the second, two side ponytail with bangs, version.  The boxed set includes 23 punch-out fashions, the 9-1/2 inch doll, and plastic stand. 



Baby Nancy, ©1969, gets new face.

The Baby Nancy shown above, stock #2002, has a box copyright date of 1969 and was probably released to market in 1970.  Stock #2003 Baby Nancy, released the same year, had short curly hair.  Both dolls use the Zuri (1972) face mold.  Zuri, which means beautiful in Swahili, was another Shindana baby. 

While Shindana Toys received funding and technical assistance from outside sources such as Mattel and Chase Manhattan Bank, initially it maintained full control of its products and operations.  In 1974, Shindana became the first black-owned company to lease space at New York Toy Fair, gaining national recognition. Unfortunately, decline in profits ensued after the 1976 tragic death of Shindana's original president and one of the original organizers of Operation Bootstrap, Lou Smith

Baby Nancy helped pave the way for the hundreds of dolls Shindana Toys produced.  The doll's manufacture changed the Watts riot chant of "Burn, Baby Burn!" to "Learn, Baby Learn!" and pulled "unemployables up by the bootstraps into paying jobs." Operation Bootstrap (history) 

Non-enlargeable thumbnails of additional early Shindana dolls along with images of key players who organized Operation Bootstrap can be viewed in the Operation Bootstrap Gallery.

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11 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing more of the history of Shindana Toys. For some reason I never had any of their dolls -- maybe because I wasn't crazy about baby dolls even when I was a child.

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  2. Hi LD:

    Shindana dolls may not have been distributed or marketed in your area. I never knew about them until a couple of years prior to the company closing its doors. I was initially made aware of Shindana by Mattel after writing them and several other doll manufacturers requesting the inclusion of black dolls in their lines and the distribution of them in my area because I wanted black dolls for my daughter. Mattel sent a written reply along with a Shindana catalogue. Oh how I wish I had kept it. I do still have their letter. The catalogue was discarded prior to a move from one house to another during the 1980s.

    Had they been widely distributed in local markets, you may have owned them during the 60s and 70s because they did make fashion dolls. Career Girl Wanda (9-1/2 inches) was their first followed by Disco Wanda (11-1/2 inches). Kim was another fashion doll (15-inches). Their celebrity dolls of Marla Gibbs, OJ Simpson, Dr. Jay, and a host of other noted African Americans may have also interested you. Search my blog for "Shindana" or "Wanda" to locate the blog posts I have written on the two Wandas.

    I was thinking yesterday that if Shindana were still in operation, I know for sure they would manufacture a Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas doll.

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  3. I remember these paper dolls! Wow! I do not remember the the dolls although this was my era. The one in the middle is too cute. Does she have a little Afro? I always look forward to your post because they are usually dolls from my childhood era or similar. Thanks for allowing me to "think" back. : )

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    1. Hi Georgia Girl - I'm glad this post allowed you to look back and capture a pleasant memory.

      The little one in the middle originally had silky, curly hair like the other two, but her previous little mommy probably wet the hair which turned it into an Afro.

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  4. Great post - thanks for this information! I don't have a Shindana page on my site (www.vintagedollcollector.com) yet, but I will link to your blog. I LOVE learning new things about old dolls.

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  5. Hello Zendelle,

    Thanks for stopping by and for sharing a link to your wonderful database of vintage dolls. I have several black dolls in the categorized sections shown at your website. To name a few: Alexanders's Cynthia (14- and 18- inch versions -- I need the 22-inch one!); Effanbee's Grumpy and the original Patsy Jr.; Kenner's Gabbigale; Hasbro's Shanna and Krissy from the Jem and the Holograms line of dolls. I know I have others, but those were the few categories I perused and noted the absence of black counterparts. I can share image links and/or photos of you are interested.

    Thanks again for stopping by. I have bookmarked your site (I believe I have visited it before.)

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  6. Thanks for another wonderful history lesson.

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  7. Hi Zendelle

    I have a baby Nancy. She was given to me when I was born. I am in the process of having her restore, because she has received much love over the years. I hope to one day pass her on to a granddaughter who I hope will continue to bestow love upon her, since I had three boys.

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  8. He hello All, My name is Ms. Moe and I had the 2nd Baby Nancy Doll (#2002) version. I let a friend hold her when I was young and she lost my favorite doll. A memory never to be forgotten. I am now on a search to find and purchase this beautiful doll. My birthday is on valentines day and to find this gift would be one of the next best things to giving birth to my children.

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  9. Hello all, my name is Ms. Moe and I had a Baby Nancy Doll (#2002 edition) when I was a child. I let a friend hold my Nancy and she lost her. A memory never to be forgotten. She was my best doll/toy. She was one of the next best things to giving birth to my children. I actually teared up when I saw her images online. I am now going to bring my past memories to present. Thanks Louis Smith, Robert Hall & Shindana Toys ~ let the search begin....

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    1. Hello Ms. Moe,

      Try searching eBay from time to time for "Shindana Baby Nancy" to see if the one you had is listed in an eBay auction. I just checked, but none are currently listed. They do show up on eBay from time to time. Click here.

      Good luck in your search!

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