Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Answer to a Crying Need

L-R 1968-1972 Remco Dolls:  Baby Know it All, Sweet April (seated on Baby Know it All's desk), Brown Eye Billy, Strolling Sweet April, and Winking Winny
The title of this blog was used for a 1968 Remco Toys, Inc. doll advertisement to introduce several black dolls designed by the then young African American doll designer, Annuel McBurrows.  Remco sought to market dolls designed specifically for little brown girls.  These dolls were not just white dolls "colored" brown. Their facial features were true representations of the little brown girls for whom they were designed.  From 1968 through the early 1970s, McBurrows was successful in designing a series of ethnically correct black dolls.  Some of his doll designs were included in the Brown Eye doll series.

I own several of the McBurrows-designed dolls, including the above mentioned Remco advertisement.  With these, I decided to create Russian nesting dolls or Matrioshkas, which are also very difficult to find in black-doll form.   The first set was crafted this past weekend and has arrived at its new home.  I photographed the dolls before their departure.

They are as follows:

  •  Nesting doll 1: Winking Winny, 1968, the original (three-dimensional) doll winks.
  • Nesting doll 2: Brown Eye Billy, 1969; he’s just cute.
  • Nesting doll 3: Baby Know it All, 1969, the original doll jumps up and down and shakes head 'yes' or 'no' in response to picture cards that activate her battery-operated movement.
  • Nesting doll 4: Strolling Sweet April, 1971, the original doll strolls in her stroller with the aid of a walker rod.  
  • Nesting doll 5: Yes-No Baby, 1976, the original doll gestures 'yes' or 'no' with her head (her image is not included in the first picture.)
Not a black-owned or operated business, Remco Toys, Inc. was a well-known forerunner in the creation of mechanical dolls (and other toys) from the late 1940s through the early 1970s.  I appreciate their foresight and the dolls they manufactured in answer to a crying need.



  1. I have a set of nesting dolls hidden away in the attic somewhere. I am going to have to dig them up. I don't think I have EVER in my lifetime seen a set of AA Matroishkas. That's a great idea you have there. Good job!

  2. They are so cute Debbie, great job!

  3. Mr. McBurrows was a member of my Graphics Department Staff at Audits & Surveys in NYC, in the 1980's. I remember him well. A sweet spirit and gentlemanly nature. Rob Jerome,

  4. Thank you for saving these dolls. They were created by my great uncle, my grandfather's baby brother. Thank you for sharing
    Yevette Jackson

    1. Your uncle was a gifted artist. I am honored to own these dolls. Do you know if he sculpted dolls for other doll companies?



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