Monday, February 20, 2017

Walking African Girl and African Toddler by Pedigree

1950s Walking African Girl and African Toddler by Pedigree of England

Purchased in June 2009, the Walking African Girl by Pedigree (shown on the left above) is a 16-inch head-turning walker with brown flirty eyes.  At the time of purchase, her manufacturer’s-given name was unknown.  I later solicited identification help from a noted England-based doll historian.  The toddler is a recent purchase.

The lovely, ebony-complexioned walker had the opportunity to record her purchase in blog-form, which was published in my book:  The Doll Blogs:  When DollsSpeak, I ListenHer entry is as follows:


Friday, June 26, 2009


Debbie found me on eBay in the search results for “black Pedigree doll.”  The “Southwest” United Kingdom seller listed me for GBP 125.00 buy-it-now or best offer.  Debbie recently saw an auction for a doll like me that ended for over GBP 250.00.  Debbie decided to place an offer of GBP 95.00 and said a silent prayer that the seller would accept the offer.  Less than 24 hours later, she accepted it.  Debbie immediately paid using Paypal and is anticipating my arrival. 

I was described by the seller (with minor editing by Deb) as:

“A fine example of the 1950’s hard plastic PEDIGREE WALKING DOLL. “Still has a lovely sheen and good colour all over.Full black astrakhan wig with red bow in. “Lovely clear amber flirty eyes, she retains her eyelashes, earrings, two top teeth. “WORKING MAMA.Her walking action is excellent with her head turning from side to side. “Pretty red spotted dress with a Faerie Glen, Made in England label inside.  White pants and red Cinderella sandals.  No cracks, splits, repairs or bad odours.Just a few minor scuffs.” 
I should arrive in the US within the next two weeks.

Love,


1950s Hard Plastic Pedigree Walking Doll

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After her arrival, she made one additional entry in the aforementioned book, using the same photo shown immediately above:

Monday, July 6, 2009

I arrived in the US from Honiton, Devon UK sooner than Debbie’s calculation of two weeks’ travel time.  In her eyes, I am as beautiful as the auction pictured and described.  My amber colored eyes are clear with all eyelashes intact.  I still have my two pearly white upper teeth.  My Astrakhan wig is full without discolorations.  The brass hoop earrings in my ears may be replaced ones, but Debbie is not sure.  My head-turning walking mechanism and my mama voice box both work well. 

I wear a red, circle-print dress that is tagged Faerie Glen Made in England for 16 to 18-inch (40.64 to 45.72cm) dolls.  The fabric of my white panties matches the white trim of my dress.  Debbie thinks I have been redressed and very nicely so.  My vinyl, red Cinderella sandals may be original.  Debbie removed my socks to give me a more fashionable look. (She considers socks with sandals a fashion faux pas.)  She is quite pleased that she browsed eBay for “black Pedigree dolls” on the day she found me and made the seller a decent offer. 

With assistance once again from Susan Brewer of British Doll Showcase, Debbie now knows my manufacturer-given name. 

Love,


1950s Pedigree Walking African Girl


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During 2009 through 2011, my self-imposed mission had been to add similar vintage dolls to my collection, made in non-US markets.  The goal was to illustrate how black people had been perceived through dolls in these markets. The walker remained here with several other England, New Zealand, and Australian-made 1930s through 1950s dolls until the 15-inch toddler arrived earlier this month.


1950s African Toddler by Pedigree

The toddler, described by the seller as harder to find with bent limbs, has the same head sculpt as the Walking African Girl. Her once flirty eyes are now fixed into position.  Like the toddler, she also has an astrakan wig and gold hoop earrings in both ears.  They both also have two upper teeth.  Shown above in the photos taken by the seller, the toddler arrived dressed in ill-fitting "1950s pink dungarees."  I elected to redress her as shown below.

1950s African Toddler by Pedigree now wears a red and white floral print dress with white hat, undies, and white leatherette shoes.  The dress and hat are the original clothes of a 16-inch Patty-Jo, reproduced in 2007 by Terri Lee dolls.

The lovely sisters pose in this final photo.

Additional dolls by Pedigree and other non-US companies can be seen here and here.


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14 comments:

  1. You certainly picked the right word to describe them: lovely :D

    I hadn't seen many vintage black dolls aside from those you generously share with us on your blog but you sparked an interest in me so I went looking and the few I saw in person were from French companies (Gégé, Petitcolin,Raynal) probably because I live in a French province.
    The thing I find strange is that though my maternal grandmother had looked high and low for black dolls she had never even heard of any being made or she would have ordered them from abroad,if necessary,for her daughters. Then, the same thing happened decades later when my mom was first buying me dolls. Aside from a black Barbie clone all she found were 2 black rubber dolls like those I've seen in one of your earlier posts. My friends, black or white, from different parts of the world didn't even have that.
    Where were all the gorgeous dolls I see on your blog? Why were they so hard to find and what were the people who owned them back then doing with them that so many people could be unaware of their existence?I'm so curious about the marketing and distribution that was- or rather wasn't-done to explain this situation. Were they made in such small quantities that the production was snapped up by a lucky few insiders?
    So many questions:-)

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    1. Hi Maricha,

      Typically black dolls (if made) have always been made in fewer numbers than white dolls. When there is a white counterpart, only 20% of the production is black dolls. A doll dealer shared this with me over 25 years ago when I voiced my frustration over the lack of black dolls then. But I would estimate that in some cases, the percentage of black doll production versus white is even less than 20% in some instances.

      Very few companies have ever taken the initiative (unless they were/are black-owned) to make black dolls. Another issue that kept these beautiful dolls from being in the hands of children, who would have loved to have owned them, is distribution. Some stores did not stock/order black versions, particularly during the Jim Crow era. Many manufacturers felt black parents would buy white dolls anyway (and they did) so the extra effort to produce dolls in black was not a consideration for most.

      It was not until I became an adult collector (1991) and after purchasing Myla Perkins' first black doll reference book (Black Dolls an Identification and Value Guide 1820 to 1991) that I realized so many nonstereotypical black dolls had, in fact, been made and available in the US during my childhood. Most, unfortunately, as I indicated were not available in my area (the then segregated south) and those few that trickled down were as you said, "snapped up by a lucky few insiders."

      The struggle has been real and it continues...

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    2. Thanks for explaining it.That's why I really appreciate your blog and all the information you give on vintage and new dolls. Even today, you can't ask for what you don't know exists. Friends of mine jumped at the chance to buy American Girl Melody but had no idea there'd been any black AGs besides Addy who was shown on Oprah.If I hadn't seen Melody and her accessories on your blog I couldn't have mentioned her to them.
      It's true that the struggle continues. Even when a doll is recently on the market because of them being more rare, if you miss the single one the store put on the shelf, that's that. Thankfully, online shopping makes the search a bit easier but I wish stores made more of an effort to offer a diversity of dolls that reflects the population. It makes no sense that even when the toy aisle is freshly stocked, like at Christmas, there are a hundred blonde dolls for every 2 brunettes or redheads and 1 black doll.

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    3. You're welcome, Maricha!

      Online shopping does make the hunt and find easier, but you still have to know what to look for.

      Dolls should reflect the population, but I learned long ago that doll manufacturers and artists usually create dolls that are a reflection of their own race or will use the excuse that black dolls don't sell. My answer to that excuse is: Excuses only benefit those who make them; and when black dolls are created as realistic representations of the people they portray, they do sell.

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  2. They are gorgeous! Your mission is a good one, keep finding rare and precious black dolls.
    I discovered the Pedigree dolls while browsing on eBay months ago while looking for black Petit Collin baigneur, (Michel or Françoise) doll (baigneurs are toddler doll that can be put into water without fear of running the doll). I was looking for a 40 cm doll. As you can guess, I still haven't found any.
    Maybe I should get a Pedigree doll since I am not really planning on immersing my doll into deep waters.
    Anyway your dolls are really gorgeous.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Are you going to allow more of your dolls to write blog entries?
    Before I forgot, my Drew is a Drew Starter Doll. It was written on the top side her box. She has got some lovely overall but no white tee-shirt.

    Arlette

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    1. Hello Arlette,

      I have a family of Petit Collin dolls and one bathing doll that can be seen here.

      I googled the ones you desire and saw white versions here, which are very nice. Does the company make dark-skinned versions of these?

      Pedigree dolls are quite nice. I think you would like them, but I hope you're able to find the Petit Collin doll you desire. As for me, unless I see that very special Pedigree doll, my Pedigree collection is complete.

      I thought all Drew Starter dolls come with the personalized white T-shirt, but I could be mistaken.

      Aside from the hundreds of dolls that blogged their experiences over a two-year period and had these documented in my third book, I have no immediate plans to be the dolls' facilitator and allow them to blog in the future. But, I am not one to never say never, so who knows, it's a possibility.

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  3. The picture of the toddler in the pink and white jumpsuit immediately caught my eye. What a cutie! I then read your caption of the ill fitting dungarees. That doesn't show in the picture above. Congrats on having both in your collection.

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    1. Thank you, Vanessa. The seller's pictures caught my eye, too. I actually shared the buy link with my Facebook group thinking someone would be interested in purchasing. I woke up the next morning hoping the doll would still be available and she was, so I purchased her.

      The "dungarees" as the seller described them have a snap closure on the sides of the waist. The waist is not wide enough to snap on both sides, which is why I described them as ill-fitting. I knew this before purchasing as the seller's descriptions are always precise. I suppose I could have removed the snaps over. Instead, I dressed another similar doll in the "dungarees" and allowed this cutie to wear what the other doll was wearing (the Terri Lee outfit). I wanted her to wear something similar in color to what her big sister wears anyway.

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  4. These are such gorgeous dolls! I would love to see one in person. Just beautiful and thanks for the great info about them. I had never known they existed. :)

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    1. You're welcome, Farrah Lily. I am drawn to their ebony complexions, astrakhan (lamb's wool) wigs, and flirty eyes (eyes that seem to follow you when the dolls are moved). I too think they are beautiful and quite well made.

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  5. My first doll as a toddler was a Pedigree doll who we named Toochie because my parents were friends with the Ambassador for Ghana and his wife (who the doll was named for). Toochie and my rag doll Holly Hobby literally travelled with me all over the world, but I knew very little about her. Many moons ago she went to a dolls hospital to have her sleep eyes fixed and she came back with the amber eyes (I seem to remember them not originally being that colour) tiny me also thought she went for a makeover and might come back with long hair?! I think her central rubber band had snapped, because I think also her head had fallen off from over lovin'.

    A few years ago I did work out Toochie was a Pedigree doll because I found markings under the base of her head on the line that goes into her neck socket and was able to identify via google search that she was a Pedigree doll which was nice to know as they manufactured my next dolly love Sindy.

    Your article added even more information for me on a doll I still have today, and I need to take her to the dolls hospital again for a refresh, mainly because she's lost all her eyelashes as does Holly Hobby (she has very little yarn hair left!). Thank you for reminding me of a task I've been meaning to organise for a while...I'll need to send you photos when she's all better! :)

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    1. As an aside...being Aussie, I don't think I have ever heard "dusky" used in parlance, though I know what the word means, so it's strange that it's being used to describe dolls of colour on this side of the world...must be some olde worlde sellers out there...but I know none of my black dolls would ever hear me describe them as such. :/

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    2. Thank you for sharing Toochie's story, Julius. I know she holds a special place in your doll world. I would love to see photos of her after she is all better once again.

      I need to check the neck area of my Dixie and Mandy Lou-look-a-likes. They are marked New Zealand but I know they use the same head and body sculpts as Pedigree's dolls. They also have a very interesting story about their arrival that I promised to share with another collector. I will do that in an updated post or a new one soon. (Really so that I won't forget.)

      I am sure none of your doll family would ever be referred to as dusky. For some, however, archaic labels live on.

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