Advertising dolls provide an interesting look at the history of consumer products in America. Who remembers Force cereal, Blatz beer or Fletcher’s Castoria? But through their advertising and trademark characters, these products will live forever.
Most advertising dolls are made of cloth, simple “pancake” dolls with one piece for the front and one for the back, stitched together and stuffed. Some, like Freckles the Frog pictured above, were printed on fabric and sold by the piece, to be stitched and stuffed at home. But there are advertising dolls of all materials, including vinyl, hard plastic, composition and even cast iron.
The Four Types of Advertising Dolls
The most popular and familiar type of advertising doll promotes the company’s trademark character. This might be Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes cereal; the Campbell Kids for Campbell’s Soup; or Aunt Jemima for the pancake mix made by Quaker Oats.
Another type of advertising doll is the licensed doll. This doll, like Ideal’s Little Miss Revlon or Toni by Ideal and American Character, incorporates the name and concept of the product without actually being used in the company’s own advertising.
A third type of advertising doll is the premium doll, which is used by the company to sell product (“Send in 3 boxtops and 25 cents”) but otherwise has no connection to the product. One example of this type is the Fun Fair clown offered by Kelloggs in 1973.
A fourth type of advertising doll, and the hardest to find, are the dolls that were not made available to the general public, but used solely as display pieces in stores. One example is the RCA Victor “Sellin’ Fool” doll made to be displayed in RCA dealerships in the ’20s. The doll was based on an illustration by Maxfield Parrish and is very hard to find today.
Advertising dolls are still being sold today, although they are far more likely to take the form of plush animals than dolls.
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.