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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