Monday, June 2, 2014

Childhood Dolls from the Past

Dolls by Ideal Toy Corp, 1968-1971

This post began with a desire to photograph two dolls by Mattel.  During the process, I reacquainted myself with several dolls that were major hits for children during the late-1960s through the early-1980s.  Their manufacturers – Ideal, Mattel, and Remco – were quite competitive during this 20-year time span with Ideal and Mattel taking the lead in sales.  My collection consists of several other dolls by these manufacturers and others (EEGEE, Horsman, Kenner, Shindana, to name a few) that are not shown or discussed in this post.  The ones shown “chose” to be featured and discussed at this time.   (They all needed a good dusting and I am sure are still thanking me for it!)

Lazy Dazy by Ideal, 1971
Lazy Dazy ©1971 is a 13-inch vinyl and cloth doll with dark brown sleep eyes.  She has a two-piece canister-type body.  The doll can sit, but with the slightest movement, she tilts over as though she is falling to sleep.  Lazy Dazy wears her original floral print pinafore over her peach flannel body. She is missing her matching floral print pillow. 

Me So Glad, Belly Button Baby by Ideal, 1970
Me So Glad, Belly Button Baby, ©1970, is a 9-inch all vinyl baby with soft vinyl head, arms, and legs.  When her belly button is pressed, her head, arms, and legs wobble about as though she is extremely excited.  The doll has black rooted hair and brown painted eyes.

Newborn Thumbelina, Ideal, 1968
Newborn Thumbelina, 9 inches, has brown straight rooted hair with a side part and brown painted eyes.  The pull string in back activates her wiggle-like-a-baby movement.   She wears her original white top and orange knit pants with enclosed feet.  Newborn Thumbelina has a copyright date of 1967 and entered the market in 1968.

Dolls by Mattel, 1970-1982

Baby Beans, Mattel, 1970
 Baby Beans, ©1970 is 10-inches with vinyl head and hands and pellet-filled cloth body with sewn-on orange romper and matching hat.  Underneath the hat are black rooted bangs.  She has brown painted eyes and a wide smile.   

Baby Brother Tenderlove, Mattel, 1976
Baby Brother Tenderlove is a 13-inch, anatomically correct drink and wet baby with vinyl head and one-piece soft vinyl body with brown curly rooted hair and painted brown eyes.  This doll made his doll market debut in 1976 and is Mattel’s first anatomically correct Black baby doll. Anatomically correct females were available, but the male was more controversial. 

Baby Skates, Mattel, 1982
Baby Skates is a 15-inch rigid vinyl wind-up doll that skates.  She has a soft vinyl face, rooted brown hair, and brown painted eyes.  She wears a pink and yellow skater’s outfit, yellow elbow and knee pads, and roller skates.  The copyright date for this skater that does not require batteries is 1982.
Baby Small Talk, Mattel, 1968-1969
Baby Small-Talk, is a 10-1/2-inch pull-string talker that was available from 1968-1969.  The doll has a vinyl head, arms, and legs and a rigid plastic body.  The rooted hair is brown as are her painted eyes.  The mouth is open with two upper and two lower teeth.   She wears her original aqua and white polka dot dress with daisy appliqu├ęs, white panties, and pink hair ribbon.  Baby Small-Talk says eight different “baby-talk” phrases.  Seven of these are:  “I love you.  Kiss baby.  I’m sleepy.  Go bye-bye.  Nite-Nite.  Play Patty Cake.  Baby Sleepy.” 

Hush Little Baby, Mattel, 1975
Hush Little Baby is a 15-inch battery-operated crying and moving doll, ©1975.  She probably entered the market in 1976.  The doll has vinyl head, arms, and legs, and a rigid vinyl body with battery compartment in back.  The brown hair is rooted and was originally curly.  Because of the poor condition of her hair upon arrival, I shampooed and conditioned it before styling in several braids held with ponytail holders and barrettes.  She wears her original pink and white short pants, white top with animal motif on front and pink and white trim at sleeves and collar.  Hush Little Baby has brown painted eyes.

Growing Sally, Remco, 1968
African American doll artist, Annuel McBurrows sculpted Growing Sally for Remco.  The doll has a box date of 1968, style #3295.  Sally is all vinyl with black yarn hair and painted facial features.  She is 6 inches before she grows a half inch taller.  There is a mechanism in the middle of her body that activates her growth.  An extra full-length dress and wig are included for her to wear after she grows.   

I love Growing Sally's facial features.

Discussed in another blog post, other dolls sculpted by Annuel McBurrows for Remco include:  Baby Know It All, Brown Eye Billy, and Winking Winnie.  These dolls are from the Brown Eye doll series.  Additional Brown Eye dolls along with a head shot of McBurrows can be seen here.

Singing Mimi was also a popular 20-inch fashion doll by Remco, 1973.  Mimi is not a McBurrows design. 


As a child, did you own any of these; or did your children own any? 




  1. Oh wow, Growing Sally's face is awesome! She looks like she has attitude and a half. I can hear her saying, "I'm gonna cut this trick and no one will be the wiser." But I'm sure she's not like that at all!

    I really like the names of these dolls, even the obviously named, "Baby Skates." But, "Me So Glad," is probably my favorite name.

    Nope, dolls like these were never part of my childhood home, which I think is probably a shame.

    1. Growing Sally does have lots of character, doesn't she, Muff? I don't think she's mean, though.

      I never thought of the names doll makers used in the past. I have to admit that Me So Glad's name is an attention getter.

      I had just given up doll play when the oldest of these (Newborn Thumbelina) was made, so I wouldn't have owned any. I did own the original, life-size (as in the size of a real baby) 1961 Thumbelina.


  2. I was just getting ready to do a post about my childhood Growing Sally when I found yours. Growin', as we called her, was one of my favourite dolls. Mine has a different little girl dress from yours. You also have another of my favourite childhood dolls,Newborn Thumbelina. I remember picking her out at the store at Christmas time. But, my sister told me recently, Mom and Dad didn't buy her right away, and ended up having to look all over to find the African American one I wanted.(I did a post on my Newborn thumb too, including our pictures on Christmas day.She still looks the same, in spite of being so loved!)

    1. Thanks for commenting, Tam. You owned some delightful dolls as a child. I enjoyed your Newborn Thumbelina post.


  3. Thank you for this wonderful site and your work in documenting the history of black dolls. I am wondering if you can point me to any information on "Baby Small Talk" by Mattel. I have "the black version" of this doll that the outfit says was made in 1967. She was my first doll and caused an uproar in my white, Euro-ethnic Detroit family who thought my mother was crazily trying to fix the race riots by giving her white baby girl a black baby doll (she was and she wasn't completely unsuccessful--I now use the doll in my lectures about white privilege). I'd really love to know how she was marketed, to whom, who bought her (was it mainly whites who bought Mattel dolls or African-Americans who had few opportunities to buy a commercially-made doll that looked even a little like them), etc. etc. Any information you can share would be so valuable to me and my students.

    Also, a huge trivia question I hope you can answer: Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark did an experiment with white and black dolls in the 1940s that was used in an amicus brief to overturn segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas Supreme Court case. Do you know anything about the dolls that were used in this famous experiment? I have often wondered how easy it would have been for a black family to find black dolls for their children to play with in the late 30s and early 40s, if the dolls in the experiment were easy to purchase,etc. Thanks again for any insights you have or directions in which you can point me!

  4. Hello Dr. Shelley,

    Thank you for visiting and for commenting on this post.

    Unfortunately, I cannot offer any information or leads regarding the marketing strategies Mattel used for Baby Small Talk. Have you tried contacting Mattel directly? I do know that white and black versions of the doll were made and, as a rule of thumb, manufacturers generally produce fewer black dolls when there is a white version. The people who purchased this particular doll were those who were aware of its existence who also were able to buy the doll in their local retail markets, those who could afford it, collectors of talking dolls, parents who desired black dolls for their children or those who purchased the doll at the child's request. I can just visualize Baby Small Talk being on many late-1960s Christmas wish lists.

    Regarding the dolls used in the Doll Test conducted by Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, an online article includes Dr. Kenneth Clark's eulogy, which states the dolls were purchased from a Woolworth's in New York. ( My information about the dolls is limited beyond this and the fact that they were identical except for complexion. During the 30s and 40s (specifically late 40s when the test commenced), in the South, it probably was not very easy for black parents to 1) see aesthetically pleasing black dolls in stores and 2) afford them if they were available. Black parents with disposable income beyond the necessities of life did purchase manufactured black dolls for their children; however, the majority of black children during the pre- and immediate post-Depression era played with homemade dolls and other handmade playthings.



Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!