What was your favorite Christmas list toy or play thing when you were growing up? Doll, bicycle, baseball mitt or book? Mine was a now much-worn teddy bear that when uncovered in a dresser drawer still commands a hug and a whispered confidence as of old!
Though Teddy Bears were/are still popular there was another soft cuddler that held a top place on Christmas or anytime lists that began just about a hundred years ago now — Raggedy Ann, then a bit later her brother, Raggedy Andy, dressed in a sailor suit and hat.
Frankly, yours truly doesn’t recall having a Raggedy though about the only book that remains was one of a Raggedy theme.
It must be packed away somewhere. Raggedy Ann didn’t just appear out of thin air; she came about by a heartfelt gesture—straight from the heart like the one always embroidered on her chest.
Grunelle’s little daughter approached him one day in a gloomy mood, a battered rag doll she’d discovered in the attic in her hand. She asked her daddy to tell her a story about the faceless doll.
He told her a charming tale about the doll’s history as he drew a face on it with a pen and ink on his drawing board.
Grunelle reached up to take a poetry book from a shelf above his head: James Whitcomb Riley’s poems. Looking at the list of titles he saw “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphan Annie.” Putting words together, he said to Marcella, “Why don’t we put two of the words side by side and call her Raggedy Ann?”
The name seemed to fit. Grunelle received U.S. Patent #D47789 on September 7, 1915 for the doll. In 1918, however, she appeared in a book and that, too, was registered. Reliable source states that because of their ages Ann and Andy are now considered public domain.
Hundreds, thousands, have been handmade over the years since the 1940’s to present just as they were in the beginning. Many companies made the dolls, adding their own name to the label.
P.F. Volland, one of Grunelle’s book publishers manufactured the dolls from 1920 to 1934. Exposition Dolls and Toy Co., 1934-35, only a year in production, RARE. Molly-E’s Doll Outfitters without permission, 1935-38; Georgette Novelties, 1938-1962; Knickerbocker Toy Co., 1963-1982; Applause Toy Co. Russ Berrie, 1983-2011; Hasbro Playskool, 1983-Present (Master License); Aurora World, Inc., 2012-Present (plush doll license); Simon and Schuster, books and other media.
Reference inserts that one example in the confusion pertaining to the Raggedy’s “estate” was a “legal limbo” and court cases Grunelle v. Molly Goldman. Why so many took advantage of the Raggedy’s is not known here.
Johnny Grunelle was born on Christmas Eve, 1882 on South Locust Street in Arcola, Illinois. He became a cartoonist for newspapers in Ohio and New York writing and illustrating the children’s books that eventually made him famous though they weren’t especially popular in his lifetime. Grunelle wrote twenty-six Raggedy books beginning with Raggedy Ann Stories in 1920.
Johnny Grunelle died in 1938 at the young age of fifty-seven. Subsequent books, over twenty of them, carried his name as writer/artist, in many instances. Their titles were as delightful as the main characters. Songs, music by Grunelle was included in some.
Besides dolls and books other medium carried Ann and Andy’s adventures such as a comic book, 1947. In 1977 a feature film animated by Tissa Davis who became one of the first women to draw a leading character in a feature film.
By 1979 a Halloween special appeared on TV following a Christmas special from the previous year.
A stage play was adapted from a 1977 film. A stage musical was also adapted that, “Rag Dolly,” in 1984. Music was written by then well-known songwriter, Joe Riposo and playwright, William Gibson. It went through several adaptations to have a short run on Broadway in 1986.
A television series appeared from 1988 to 1992, the “Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy.” You can see how busy the two Raggedy’s have been in their long, varied career.
Raggedy Ann was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2002, Andy in 2007.
Another “native son” of our Illinois became famous for his talent and creativity—and from a small country town, Arcola, in Central Illinois.
Arcola and nearby Arthur are noted as the “heart of Amish Country” in our state.
Several of the Amish denomination came to North America in 1728 and scattered across the continents for years to come. Agents looking for good farmland, liked what they saw south of Peoria to claim land for homesteads, this in the mid-1850’s. Arcola was platted in ‘55, Arthur in 1813.
Despite the many disciplines of their religion, they welcome “outsiders” into their homes to learn of their ways and traditions and to assist in making money to add to the restrictions in the kinds of businesses they are allowed to work in. Horse and buggy or wagon are their typical form of transportation.
A Welcome Center was once housed in the I.C. Depot, no longer in use. With times changing, the Welcome Center closed in 2009, the year the annual Raggedy Ann and Andy festival held in June was also discontinued.
Some of the Museum’s Raggedy collection went to the “Strong Museum of Play,” other artifacts are at Arcola’s Rockome Gardens, a little way out of town. The “Gardens” were a privately held project for maybe fifty years but became a “public” theme park,” a mall of all kinds of vendors and sights-to-see. Just one more tourist attraction besides being the birthplace of the creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy whose faces are still most familiar.
McCall’s, pattern-makers, began the doll’s wardrobe designs in 1940. Continuing with alterations until the present day. The original pattern included a stylish cape which was discontinued in 1963. Simplicity Co. also makes patterns in several sizes.
The Raggedy’s, of course, became “politically correct” as early as 1970 when different hair color was suggested. Her button eyes were replaced by embroidery as also her face was slightly altered through the triangular nose and “I Love You” with the sewn-on heart remained!
Those changes aren’t the first time that Raggedy Ann became a symbol for an event in her eventful career. She, in fact, became a NATIONAL campaign symbol for a serious cause.
Yet in the early decades of the twentieth century, there was opposition to vaccinations despite its mostly effective results in stopping smallpox.
Mr. and Mrs. Grunelle were vigorous opponents of the vaccination.
Grunelle’s daughter, Marcella, then thirteen was mistakenly vaccinated at school without her parents’ consent. She died soon after.
Doctors, experts, claimed the child, Marcella, died of a heart defect but her parents who were anti-vaccination blamed the procedure for her death. They campaigned throughout with many others following their views on anti-vaccination. Leading many rallies was the blazing red yarn hair colored rag doll which with her brother, Andy, had fulfilled many another adventure and quilled many an innocent escapade. This time they worked for a serious cause; right or wrong, as symbol of unity.