Raggedy Ann Dolls Washington DC
College Park, MD
Falls Church, VA
Raggedy Ann Rules
|Written by Stephanie Finnegan|
|Tuesday, 07 September 2010 22:43|
September 2010 marks the 95th birthday of an American icon who has inspired, entertained, and taught us to love, laugh, and persist for several generations. No, I’m not chatting about Betty White—though that spry golden girl has been everywhere of late, spreading her message to live life to the fullest. Instead, I’m saluting “Raggedy Ann,” the cloth creation that was awarded its patent on Sept. 7, 1915.
Raggedy Ann is one of those slices of Americana that just always seemed to be there. If you had told me that the yarn-haired miss made her debut during the Civil War, I would have believed you. She is an antique collectible that doesn’t appear to belong to any particular time period or geographic locale. If I had to describe her, I’d simply say “nostalgic.”
What’s interesting to me about Miss Ann is that her birthday, quickly coming up to 100, is happening during a time when her bold head of hair, dowdy pinafore, striped stockings and clunky shoes make her both a throwback clotheshorse and a very groovy chick. She could be the brainchild of a dollmaker plying her craft today on the Deviant Art board !
Before the literary punk Lisbeth Salander caused a stir in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” franchise, Raggedy already had a heart embroidered on her fabric chest. I don’t know about you, but to me, that equals a doll tattoo. Pretty cutting-edge for your great-grandma’s playmate.
Taken in a certain light, Raggedy is a heck of a steam-punk goddess. As a matter of fact, her primitive face, which looks a bit like a makeover a la Dr. Frankenstein, is the harbinger of “Sally,” the ethereal and macabre heroine of Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Raggedy Ann first appeared when artist Johnny Gruelle created a brand-new face for an old cloth doll that had been unearthed in the family’s attic—some experts say that Johnny stumbled upon it in his mother’s upstairs crawl space; others say his daughter, Marcella, found it while playing beside her grandma’s steamer trunks. Marcella and her father were extremely close, and the cartoonist would often regale his child with outlandish stories involving the fearless and sweet Ann. In 1915, when she was 13, Marcella Gruelle was vaccinated at school for small pox. She mysteriously passed away after this event, and her dad was devastated. Doctors said she died from heart failure; Gruelle maintained it was because of the vaccination, which he did not authorize. (Throughout his life afterward, Johnny Gruelle was a vocal opponent of childhood vacc...