Beatrice Alexander Behrman, or “Madame Alexander,” as she became known, grew up in the doll business. As the daughter of Maurice Alexander, a Russian immigrant who opened the first doll hospital in this country in 1895, she learned to appreciate the beauty of dolls from her early years. Her father’s teachings stayed with her into adulthood, and seeking a professional and artistic challenge, she founded the Alexander Doll Co., Inc., in the 1920’s. She went on to become the leading lady of the doll industry as she guided a company famous for the beauty and high quality of its dolls and their clothing.
Early Alexander dolls were cloth and composition. They had big hits in the 1930’s with their licensed Dionne Quintuplets and Sonja Henie composition dolls. During this period they also introduced characters from literature, including the Little Women series and McGuffey Ana. In the late ’40s, they turned to hard plastic and their Margaret and Maggie face dolls were the epitome of the well-dressed little girl.
From the very beginning, Madame Alexander focused on producing the highest quality, most beautiful doll clothing in the world. The same molds were used over and over again, with the costume and hairstyling creating the character of the doll.
The 8 inch Alexander-kins were introduced in 1953, and became the Alexander Doll Company’s most enduring product. Many were sold under the name Wendy or Wendy Ann. A year later a walking mechanism was introduced. From 1956 to 1965, the dolls were produced with jointed knees.
Alexander initiated the modern era of the fashion doll with the introduction of Cissy in 1955. In the company’s catalog for that year, Madame describes her as “A Child’s Dream Come True.” Elise, a doll with jointed ankles to enable her to wear low or high heels, was introduced in 1957, and in 1959, 10 inch Cissette joined her “big sisters” as Alexander’s newest fashionable lady. All of these dolls had extensive lines of extra clothing and accessories which could be purchased.
In addition to the high-heeled dolls, Alexander produced some of their most enduring child dolls in the 1950s. Babies Kathy and Little Genius were produced in several sizes, and little girl Kelly was dressed in beautiful, classic styles. The Little Women dolls that had always been big sellers for Alexander got an update with the introduction of pre-teen Lissy.
In the 1960s, Alexander introduced a number of new dolls with unique head molds, including Brenda Starr, a slim teen fashion doll to compete with Mattel’s Barbie, and Coco, a new 20 inch high fashion doll. While these dolls had a fairly short production run, the company also introduced some new faces which would become classics in their line. The 21 inch Jacqueline doll was one of these. Initially a representation of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, the mold was later used for the Portrait Series of lady dolls which were produced for decades. 14 inch Mary Ann and 12 inch Janie, both little girl dolls, became mainstays of the company’s line as well.
Also in the 1960s, the International Series using the 8” Alexander-kin molds were introduced. They became Alexander’s most popular line, and are still being produced today.
The 1970s and ’80s saw Alexander staying the course, with few innovations, producing the beloved babies and children, characters from classic literature, and ladies in Portrait gowns that had always done well for them.
Beatrice Alexander sold the company in 1988, and passed away two years later.
In the 1990s, the company went through a challenging period. They were the last of the major doll manufacturers still located in the United States, and had difficulty competing for collectors’ dollars. In 1995 the company was sold to an international banking group and production began to be moved overseas.
In the 1990s and 2000s, many of Alexander’s classic dolls were reintroduced, some as reproductions of the original styles, and others with a new modern look.
Beatrice Alexander was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2000.
The company has changed hands a few more times in recent years, and is currently owned by Kahn Lucas, a girls’ clothing manufacturer.
Today the Madame Alexander Doll Company specializes in baby dolls for children, including Huggums and Pussy Cat, first introduced in the 1960s, and a line of Lee Middleton babies; and collectible 8 inch and 10 inch dolls using the Alexander-kin and Cissette molds.
Admiration Doll Company produced this inexpensive 8″ toddler doll in the 1950s, capitalizing on the popularity of Vogue’s Ginny doll. Carol-Sue is all hard plastic with sleep eyes, a mohair or synthetic mohair wig and bare feet painted to look like shoes. She is jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips, and is unmarked. Some dolls have painted lashes below each eye. Carol Sue’s simple clothing is stapled directly to her.
In 1950, the Terri Lee Doll Company added a new member to their lineup of dolls. This was Terri’s baby sister, Linda Lee, a 10″ all vinyl baby with a slimmer, more realistic infant body, and an adorable face.
Linda had her own outfits and accessories, including this suitcase-style trunk. The trunk is made of wood, covered with paper, and has a plastic handle and metal hardware. It measures 11.25″ wide, about 8.25″ high and 4.25″ deep. It has a flocked design of an elephant hauling a cart with a duck in it. Linda Lee’s name is in the lower right corner, with the two Ls designed like pairs of diaper pins. Another version of the trunk had gray flocking instead of the dark blue on this one.
Very soon after she was released, Linda Lee’s name was changed to Linda Baby, and the trunks that had already been produced had a daisy glued over the “Lee.” These trunks are very hard to find now.
Sold on eBay for $49 plus shipping in January 2020.
Recently I got lot of vintage Kellogg’s premium dolls on Craigslist. A premium doll is a type of advertising doll that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the product, but is offered to tempt you to buy the product so you can get the premium.
The Grown Up Doll was offered by Kellogg’s in 1958, advertised on the cereal boxes. For $2, plus 2 box tops from Rice Krispies or Raisin Bran, you got this 10 1/2″ doll with four outfits. She has a vinyl head with rooted hair and sleep eyes, and a hard plastic body with a walking mechanism.
She has high heel feet and is the same size as Little Miss Revlon, Jill and other glamour dolls of the same time period, but she doesn’t have the well developed bust line that most of those dolls do.
The Grown Up Doll came in the formal gown of flocked nylon over taffeta (shown at top) with a halter top that ties with pink ribbon, and a bouquet of flowers and ribbon at the waistline. The matching hat is just a football shaped piece, with braid trim around the edge, and an elastic chin strap.
She has three extra outfits that came with her. This taffeta afternoon dress with big hearts printed on it has matching panties. A pink cotton knit sweater has a black, white and red flannel skirt, matching beret, and white taffeta panty. This white taffeta top with black velvet bow goes with a pair of red and black striped corduroy pants. The black and silver braid is sewn to the waistline, but not in a way that would wrap around her waist, so I’m not quite sure if it’s just supposed to be tied in a bow or what.
For an extra $1 and another box top, you could get four more outfits – really a bargain! The party dress of floral nylon in candy pink. It has a pink taffeta panty. This blue pajama set is made of taffeta. It came with a cotton waffle embossed robe.
The Beach Togs outfit includes a red and white knit swimsuit (which won’t stay up, should have had a strap around her neck or something) and a white terrycloth jacket. A cute sundress is embossed to resemble seersucker. It has a matching panty too.
The lot came with three pairs of high heeled shoes – two pairs of white heels that can go with the evening gown or the afternoon dress, and a pair of red ones to go with the flannel skirt ensemble or the pants outfit. Also a pair of nylon stockings. I’m not sure if these came with the doll and original outfits, or with the extra outfit set.
This article was published in the December 25, 1956 issue of Look magazine, and shows the brand new (at that time) Poor Pitiful Pearl doll by Brookglad, in her original outfit and the extra dress that she came with. Her creator, William Steig, was very well known at that time as an illustrator and cartoonist, primarily for The New Yorker magazine. What especially interesting here is the illustration showing his original drawing of Pearl. The article states that there would be a Poor Pitiful Pearl book the following spring, but I can’t find any information to confirm that it was ever published. He began a second career illustrating children’s books in the late 1960s, and it’s this work for which he is best remembered today.