Thursday, February 25, 2010

Moments in Black Doll History: Chatty Cathy and Other Mattel Talkers

Chatty Cathy, original 1960s black pageboy version, and reproduced Ashton Drake 2004 version

Next to Barbie, Chatty Cathy remains one of Mattel's most popular dolls.  Chatty Cathy doll enthusiasts might argue that she is more popular. 

Only two black versions were made in limited quantities.  One has two side ponytails with bangs.  The other has a pageboy hairstyle.  The black versions command top dollar on the secondary market, but the one with the two side ponytails is the rarest and most desired. 

In 2004, Ashton Drake nicely reproduced a 19-inch, battery-operated, pullstring African American Chatty Cathy (shown on the right in the first image).  Their online price was $99.99 but advertised as $79.99 in print ads or if ordered by phone.  I believe the online price was eventually corrected to match that of the print ad and the white version.   

Other companies also reproduced this popular 1960s doll.

Danbury Mint's 2004 version (shown above on the cover of their flyer) is also a battery-operated, pullstring talker.  Their version, however, is porcelain, stands only 17-1/2-inches, and retailed for $129. 

Prior to that, in 2001, Mattel replicated an even smaller, 14-inch vinyl version (with decals for eyes!).  This one recites fewer phrases than the original 1960s doll. 

L-R Ashton-Drake's reproduced Chatty Cathy, three original Chatty Babies, 1960s Chatty Cathy with pageboy, and a dyed 1960s Chatty Cathy (wigged to look like the rare, two-ponytail, black version)

Three other popular talkers by Mattel include Chatty Baby (shown above), Drowsy, and the elusive black version of Baby Small-Talk, pictured below.  My Drowsy is stored away with other play line dolls as is the reproduction Chatty Cathy with decaled eyes (what was Mattel thinking?) 

Baby Small-Talk by Mattel, 1968-1969 says eight different phrases in an infant-like voice

Tip:  To keep vintage pull string talkers vocal, pull their strings from time to time.



  1. Since I will probably never aquire a real ventage Chatty Cathy I'm proud to say I am owner of both AD & DM reproduction Chatty Cathy's!! I remember the doll as a child but never was given one!

  2. I remember her as a child, too. My cousin had the a white blonde Chatty Cathy. I remember playing with her doll, but didn't own one. I don't think I asked for one.

  3. Denise McNair, one of the little girls killed in one of the church bombings down south, had a Chatty Cathy. Google Denise McNair and you can see a picture of her with her Chatty Cathy. I heard on a television program hosted by Tom Brokaw, that Denise's mother said that Chatty Cathy was her favorite doll. I am white, and it touched me so, that Denise's favorite doll was my favorite too.

  4. Yes, I know. 4 Little Girls aired this week on MLK Day. I watched it again. I also have it on DVD, but always find it difficult to view the DVD because of the content. Spike Lee did a great job interviewing the survivors, family members of the 4 Little Girls who lost their lives in that bombing, and others who lived through it in that community.

    I remember when it happened, September 1963. I was a young girl around their age. It frightened me to go to Sunday school and church for a while, but of course I kept going.

    It is Denise's father in the documentary who holds a framed photograph that he took of her at her suggestion. "Daddy, take my picture," is what he said she asked him late one night while she played in bed with her Chatty Cathy. He said the picture was underexposed initially, but after she died, he reprocessed it and it has now become one of his favorite photos of her. Her doll was white, but in the documentary, as the camera spans the room while her mother talks about Denise's remaining treasures, you see black dolls about. You can tell she was a truly loved little girl.

    It is so very tragic this happened to the girls, their families, and their community as a result of hatred, mental illness, and whatever else would drive a person to bomb a church, of all places.

    1. Mattel Inc. was very good in the 1960s and 1970s about creating black versions of their popular white dolls.


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