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About the Author Greetings! This is me when I was 3. And, as you can see from the photo, I was very happy when playing with my dolls. Decades later, dolls still hold a fond place in my heart. I have created DollKind in order to publish my doll history research articles and to share my enjoyment of dolls with you.

  closeup of Bradley doll face

Bradley Dolls (Big Eyed Dolls) - A Doll Mystery Solved!

Some months ago, I asked for my readers help in identifying these mystery vintage dolls from the 70's. The recollection of their big eyes, soft foam bodies, silky wigs and Victorian-era clothing haunted me, and I was only able to turn up one tiny photo on eBay showing three of the dolls' heads. Today is my lucky day! Reader Liliane from Sunnyside has written in and correctly identfied these as Bradley Dolls. As it turns out, there's so much in a name, and once I had that all-important clue, I was able to start researching the web to learn more about these vintage dolls. I've discovered that I'm not the only one who remembers these dolls so well!

Liliane not only remembers these dolls, but she owns several, and even had a fabulous rare catalog to share with us. I can't thank her enough for the photos she's contributed to this article. The catalogue shown left reads Bradley's Wonderful World of Dolls, 1981-1982 Edition, and at that time, it cost $2.00 to buy. The bottom of the cover reads Bradley Dolls - Division of Bradley Import Co. - Copyright 1981, Founded in 1954. Filled with memory-sparking images, it's obvious from a glance at the cover that Bradley Dolls came not only in many different costumes, but also in multiple sizes.

image of Bradley Doll Catalog - very rare

The costumes shown on the front of this catalogue include Bradley dolls dressed in the Victorian/Grand Ole Opry style I remember, but also a nurse, little red riding hood, a bride, and a Santa's helper. The most interesting detail for me to learn, however, was that only some of Bradley's dolls featured the huge eyes that most people are searching the web for, asking for vintage big-eyed dolls. If you look closely at the Bradley's Wonderful World of Dolls catalogue photos, you will see that many of the dolls have much more delicate faces with smaller features.

You will also note that one of the dolls has been mounted on a lamp, and another has a swing. In my research, I encountered a Bradley Doll vase, and also, Bradley dolls posed on stands that doubled as music boxes. In my girlhood in the 1970's, these dolls were everywhere, both as a toy and as a decoration. Their lavish costumes, though generally made of non-quality fabrics and synthetics, delighted American women and girls. Little House on the Prairie ideals of a romantic family life on the land, Gunnie Sax dresses taking their fancy cues from the Victorian era and the popularity of Country Western music that made the whole country just a little bit 'country' were some of the elements of those 1970's days, and Bradley Dolls seemed to fit right into the picture.

image of Bradley Dolls, also called Stockinette Boudoir Dolls

What I've Learned About Bradley Dolls

The first thing I've leared is that people call these dolls by many different names including Boudoir dolls, Stockinette dolls, cloth dolls, Southern Belle dolls, Victorian dolls, Living Dolls and big-eyed dolls. The diversity of names begins to make sense when you discover that Bradley manfactured these dolls from 1954 until 1984 when the company was bought by Hasbro who, it would appear, discontinued the line. I have not been able to ascertain whether Bradley was a division of Milton-Bradley, the famous toy and game maker, but it could be. The fact that these dolls were manufactured for 30 years is noteworthy, and a reader, Anne, has just written in to say:

"Wow! These dolls (the ones shown) seem NEW to me! I remember the same type of doll sold in novelty stores all over during the 1950's and 60's. As a small child, I thought they were dazzlingly beautiful! They were boudoir dolls. My mother broke down and got me one, which I adored. The clothing was not removeable. A tiny paper label designated it as being "Made in Japan". I'd love to have one now!"

In addition to the frilly Victorian fashion dolls, Bradley put out a line of mod dolls in the 1960's, complete with cropped haircuts and period fabric costumes. You can see a photo of these mod dolls here

. picture of Bradley Dolls from vintage catalogue

As the reader points out, her doll came from Japan. The 1970's Bradley dolls I've encountered bear tags saying "Made in Korea" and I understand that they were later manufactured in China as well. One reader reports that they were imported and then distributed from Los Angeles all over the U.S. and Canada. They tended to be inexpensive dolls, available at five and dimes, drug stores and as prizes at county fairs.

The image shown left comes from the catalog and depicts the Bradley Dolls with the more diminutive features. As you can see, they are being sold by names like Tricia, Karen, Jody, Melanie, Kate and so on. The two doll sizes I have been able to find are 10" and 13", but there must have been dolls larger than this, as well.

It seems that different materials may have been used over 30 years of production in the manufacture of Bradley's dolls, but the materials I remember (and the ones I've found most described) are of a wire frame, covered in foam, with a stockinette body. The legs were abnormally long and thin on the dolls, and the hands had a fat padded palm and wired, needle-like fingers. The features were painted and the lavish wigs, often featuring sausage curls, were a very silky synthetic. My reader who remembers her 50's doll describes bodies that were very slender and often the torsos were just a cardboard tube. The majority of these dolls from all decades stood on stands of wood or plastic.

In addition to the Victorian and Mod dolls, Bradley made storybook-type dolls, dolls of the month, Colonial-type dolls, bride and groom sets and African-American dolls.

Value of Bradley Dolls and Where to Find Them

Once I was able to start searching for these vintage dolls by their right names, I found them selling anywhere from $10-$75. It's hard to estimate how rare they've become. Just a couple of decades ago, these dolls were literally everywhere, but they were easily dented by pressure because of their somewhat soft composition and their 'skin' was easily soiled from play. Your best bet for finding these dolls for sale will be either a Google search for doll sellers who deal Bradley dolls, or a visit to eBay's auctions.

Bradley Fashion Style Doll photo from the 1970s

Like my homepage says, I'm not a snob about dolls. Some doll collectors turn up their sensitive noses at the drug store dolls that little girls of the past could save up their allowances to afford. Certainly, Bradley Dolls don't have the stunning quality of Madame Alexander dolls or those dear Betsy McCalls, but they've got nostalgia in spades. The quality of our love for the dolls of childhood is hard to describe - we only know we feel it in our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

new image of bradley doll's head

New Bradley Doll Photos

Isn't this a great photo? Sent in by reader Mary K., this photo really shows the close-up face of a Bradley Doll. This image makes it pretty clear why so many people remember these as "Big Eyed Dolls". Look at the unique way in which the eyes on this doll have been painted. All of those unexpected colors!

Mary K. wrote to me with a tidbit of information I'd never heard before. At one time, it was possible to order either Bradley Doll Heads or Bodies. These could be assembled, and then crafters could sew their own costumes for the dolls. Mary K. asked her mother where it was she remembered buying these doll parts, and her mother recalled the names of two mail-order catalogs: Michael's and Harriet Carter. While I've never heard of the Harriet Carter catalog before, I've definitely heard of Michael's Craft Stores. These are all over the West Coast now. I wonder if this is the same store, or just a coincidental likeness of business name.

Many thanks to Mary for sharing these photos and memories of Bradley dolls with us. Below, a snapshot of Mary's three favorite Bradeys:

three new vintage bradley dolls image
Reader, Valerie, has just sent in these 2 new Bradley Doll Photos. I really appreciate how my readers have shared their photos and memories about these dolls with me, and now we've got plenty for everyone to see! Thanks, Valerie!
two new bradley doll images

Also, you may enjoy visiting this Flickr photo set I found featuring some great Bradley dolls.