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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 Madame Alexander Doll face

Madame Alexander Dolls - Setting the Standard for Best Doll Quality for Generations.

To understand how Madame Alexander came to hold first place in the hearts of generations of doll collectors, one has to travel back to the world of dolls in which a little girl named Beatrice Alexander grew up. Living in a small Brooklyn aparment above the doll shop and doll hospital of her first-generation-American father, Beatrice's daily life was amongst the lovely dolls of the Edwardian age. It is entertaining to reflect on the fabulous makes of old-world dolls that might have come into Mr. Alexander's hospital for repairs.

Lavishly dressed dolls by Bru, Jumeau, Simon & Halbig, and Armand Marseille could easily have been the little patients that Beatrice studied in their silks and plumes, satins, laces and velvets.

The years were to prove what an observant child she must have been - her eye for the minute details that give dolls and doll fashions superior appeal stands second to none, down through the ages.

The story of Beatrice Alexander - the woman who would become one of the most successful American business women of her generation - is not unlike that of some of our other national heros in the Arts. Born in a crowded NY ghetto, she looked beyond her surroundings and envisioned a world of beautiful things. She had the intelligence, the resourcefulness and the bravery to pursue her goals, no matter what the odds might be.

Beatrice was a young wife and mother in her early 20's when WWI broke out, throwing Europe into chaos and playing havoc with the U.S. economy. For Mr. Alexander, who depended on a large portion of his dolls coming from Germany, trade embargos threatened to close the doors of his doll shop. Beatrice and her siblings refused to let this be the outcome, and using what materials they could get with relative ease, they created a little cloth doll in the costume of a Red Cross Worker. This timely invention was a sensation, and the doll shop was saved. Beatrice's career had begun.

Image of early cloth madame alexander doll - Alice in Wonderland

Early Cloth Dolls by Madame Alexander - rare and wonderful!

The cloth dolls that Beatrice went on to create to stock her father's shop are extremely rare collectors items. To the right, you will see an all cloth Alice in Wonderland. These dolls originally sold for $13.50 a dozen wholesale - turning little profit for Beatrice and her sisters. So many years later, we can appreciate the value of this primitive cloth doll, but, Beatrice needed to make a real go of her business, and in 1923, she borrowed $1600 and created the Alexander Doll Company. FAO Schwarz, one of the world's greatest toy stores, was among Beatrice's first customers for cloth dolls.

Over the next decade, the company faced ups-and-downs, including the bursting of a water tower that damaged all of the stock. They held a sale on the damaged goods to recoup some of their losses and got right back to work. To understand how Beatrice felt about her work, consider the following quote explaining her philosphy:

"Dolls should contribute to a child's understanding of people, other times and other places. Dolls should develop an appreciation of art and literature in a child."

It is little wonder, then, that storybook characters, early motion picture stars and international characters became some of Alexander's best first dolls, and were her recurring subjects for the rest of her career. She wanted to share her beautiful vision with children, and her personal desire for presenting herself as an elegant person of substance led to her adopting the title Madam Alexander, which first appeared in an article in a 1928 edition of the magazine Playthings. Image of felted cloth Madame Alexander Olvier Twist doll

To the left, we have a wonderful example of a more advanced cloth doll from the early 1930's. This is Oliver Twist. He stands at 16" and features an all muslin body, but the felt mask face is a step toward greater realism, compared to the earlier Alice in Wonderland. Oliver wears a pale green velveteen jacket and has a mohair wig. On the back of his jacket the label reads "Oliver Twist, Madame Alexander, New York." Such dolls are rare and highly collectible now in the 21st century.

1930's - A period of transition and invention for Madame Alexander Dolls

During the Great Depression, Madame Alexander first began producing dolls made of composition. The company's first famous composition dolls were released in conjunction with Walt Disney's The Three Little Pigs in 1933, and the two enterprises began a lasting partnership. Following this success, Madame Alexander paid tribute to the headline-making birth of the Dionne Quintuplets. The dolls created to represent the babies were one of the Madame Alexander Doll Company's greatest successes of all time. Madame's next inspiration came from reading a new novel written in 1936 by a southern writer - Margaret Mitchell. Gone with the Wind so captured Beatrice Alexander's imagination that she created a Scarlett O'Hara doll. This was, of course, before the book was made into a film, and this original Scarlett doll was only to be the first of the many Gone with the Wind character dolls the company would continue to produce for decades.

Vintage Mint Composition McGuffey Anna Madame Alexander Doll

It was during the 1930's that Madame Alexander dolls began to take on an appearance that may begin to seem more familiar to those new to doll collecting. To the right we see an amazingly mint condition Madame Alexander doll from 1935. This character was called McGuffey Anna and she stands 9" high. She is made entirely of composition and her face is painted. I was quite amazed to see the perfect skin tone of this doll at auction. There is no evidence of crazing or discoloration. She looks as if she was released yesterday! Madame Alexander fans will, I know, take tremendous pleasure in looking at this doll's detailed costume, complete with black hat, sprigged green dress and starched pinafore. Her mohair wig is in incredible condition and even her yellow hair ribbons look fresh.

Throughout the 1930's, Madame Alexander was continuously experimenting with different doll-making materials and with different doll sizes. Unhappy with the flat look of her first cloth dolls, she invented techniques of sculpting cloth. She then progressed to composition dolls with carefully painted faces. The next move was to create dolls with sleepy, open-close eyes to bring greater expression and a new life-like quality to the dolls' faces. And her flair with fabrics only grew the longer she worked at creating dolls. Madame Alexander's ability to dream up costumes was seemingly endless!

Example of Princess Elizabeth Face Madame Alexander Doll

Toward the end of the 1930's, Alexander found a new fascination - the British Royal Family. She created a face mold based on eleven year old Princess Elizabeth, and this mold was used for numerous dolls thereafter. The example shown here on the left is quite good of the face from this molding, though the doll is somewhat worn. Note the rounded features and sleepy eyes of this well-made doll. This image does a fine job of illustrating just how far the skill of the Madame Alexander Doll Company had come by the end of the 1930's and it is little wonder that a Fortune magazine article dubbed Beatrice Alexander The Queen of Dolls.

Vintage Margaret O'Brien Madame Alexander Doll

1940s - Patriotic Madame Alexander Dolls and a Whole New Doll Medium

The U.S. Government considered dolls to be morale-boosters for the American public and Madame Alexander graciously did her duty by creating a series of war-time armed-forces-themed dolls. The company kept its doors open throughout WWII, and continued their exploration of creating dolls around motion pictures and motion picture stars. The most famous of these from the 1940's is the Margaret O'Brien doll, shown to right. She was introduced in 1946 and was offered in a number of sizes from 14" to 21". Margaret O'Brien was billed as everyone's ideal of a dear little girl, and likely you will remember her as Tootie in Meet Me in St. Louis (the little girl who knocks down the snow people, you remember!). Apart from this doll's signficance as a memento of a bygone age, she also bridges a major change in the history of dollmaking.

At the end of the war, in her quest to create an unbreakable doll, Madame Alexander partnered with the Dupont Corporation to create the first plastic doll. Margaret O'Brien dolls appear first in composition, but the later dolls are made of this miracle new substance - hard plastic! During this decade, Madame Alexander pioneered the first ever walking doll - Jeannie Walker. Numerous new face sculpts were created during the 1940's, including the doll created in honor of Olympic iceskater Sonja Henie. The Portrait Series of sumptously costumed dolls also dates to this period.

Little Red Riding Hood Madame Alexander Doll

1950s - The Golden Age of Madame Alexander Dolls

During the decade of the 1950s, Madame Alexander received 4 awards from the New York Fashion Academy for taste, style and unwavering quality of her dolls, and this is a period that is often referred to by doll collectors as the Golden Age of Madame Alexander. I believe this feeling can be attributed to the 1953 introduction of the Alexanderkins - the 8" dolls that were to become synonymous with the name of Madame Alexander.

Alexanderkins were developed in many categories, but the two most celebrated of these were the Storybook Dolls and the International Dolls. The Storybooks included such beloved figures as Little Bo Peep, Little Red Riding Hood, and Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. To the left, I have an image of a Little Red Riding Hood. She is a somewhat later model of this doll, but gives a pleasant impression of the skill of the company. The International Dolls began to take us on a trip around the world to see the folk costumes of far off lands. The ensembles created for the Alexanderkins are truly magnificent in both their overall design and in their absolutely charming attention to detail. Beautiful trims, hats, shawls, bonnets and little shoes delighted the hearts of children and ladies and the popularity of Madame Alexander's creations skyrocketed.

The face most connected with this era of dolls is the Wendy face - that chubby-cheeked little girl whose relative age seems to hover around 5-7 years old. These Wendy/Alexanderkins dolls' bodies progressed in the following way:

  • 1953 - Straight-leg non-walker dolls.
  • 1954 - Both straight-leg non-walkers and some straight-leg walkers
  • 1955 - Straight-leg walkers
  • 1956 - Both bend-knee walkers and straight-leg walkers
  • 1957 - Bend-knee walkers
Vintage Madame Alexander Cissy Doll

In addition to that well-known Wendy face, Madame Alexander had created the Binnie Walker face, but it wasn't terribly well-publicized until this face mold was used on the Cissie doll in 1955. My example to the left shows this face mold, though the doll is in poor repair. Unlike the toddler-like Wendy-faced dolls, Cissy was released as a grown-up doll with a enormous wardrobe of grown-up costumes. Cissy dolls were 20"-21" inches in height, and their features reflect the cosmetics companies' ads from the 1950s. See our beautiful unique article on the Cissy Doll. In the years following the release of Cissie, the Madame Alexander Doll Company released similar dolls of varying heights under the names of Cissette, Elise and Lissy.

Perhaps the most interesting anecdote relating the this period of doll history involves the 36 custom made dolls that Madame Alexander created to represent the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The dolls depicted the queen, her attendants, arch bishops, choir boys, guards and relations. The dolls and costumes were so accurate, right down to the last detail, that CBS used them to re-enact the coronation on television, and the set was then valued at $25,000.

International Doll by Madame Alexander

Dolls of the 1960's - 1980's

Madame Alexander continued to produce several grown-up fashion dolls and introduced Jacqueline and Caroline in the early 1960's, based on the Kennedy women. The company's fascination with important figures in history was further accented by the release of a line of First Lady dolls in the 1970's. Madame Alexander, herself, had become a famous figure and her public appearences were always sold-out affairs.

My own feelings about this era are especially poignant as this is when I was a little girl and received my very first Madame Alexander doll. The toy stores then were like magic shops with their gleaming cases of dolls of every possible description. There were the elegant, Victorian-style Lucinda dolls with their silken gowns and parasols, there were the pudgy baby dolls and then there were all of the wonderful 8" Alexanderkins dolls in their fabulous costumes. Don't miss our special article on the unique Little Boy Dolls of Madame Alexander. The International Dolls collection and Storybook Dolls collection both increased at the beginning of the 1980s and the dolls simply made a little girl's heart yearn to own every single one.

I remember Spain, in her red tiered dress and lace mantilla. Brazil with that delicious-looking fruit on her hat. Mexico with her bright glass beads. Betsy Ross with stars on her dress. The Little Red Boy in his velvet suit. Scarlett O'Hara with her green, bejeweled sash! The variety, the opulance, and the tiny detailing of these dolls will remain a source of joy to me forever.

But, perhaps best of all were the Little Women dolls. Madame Alexander made her first set of cloth Little Women dolls in 1933 after the release of the popular motion picture. The Madame Alexander Doll company has never stopped producing new versions of these dolls since then. My family owned a complete set of these dolls, purchased in the early 1970s and, to me, these dolls typified the quality and style of Madame Alexander. Read my in-depth, extensively researched and beautifully illustrated article on the Little Women Dolls.

Little Women Madame Alexander Doll

Madame Alexander retired in 1988 and sold her famous doll company to private investors. She retired to Florida, and under new ownership, the Madame Alexander Doll Company continued to produce her dolls, and also added some porcelain lines. In 1990, at the age of 95, Beatrice Alexander passed away. Her glorious legacy remains with us.

Madame Alexander Baby Dolls

In addition to all of the wonderful little girl dolls and grown up dolls this company has given us, the Madame Alexander Doll Company made a tremendous number of beautiful baby dolls. The best-known lines of these are the Huggums dolls with their soft hands and feet and the large Pussy Cat Dolls. Madame Alexander did much to set the standard of wonderful baby dolls between the 1950's - 1980's and many companies created imitations of her dolls. The image below depicts three Huggums dolls from the late 1960's - early 1970's:

Huggums Madame Alexander Baby Dolls

Collectors Value of Madame Alexander Dolls

Rarity, condition and desirability are the three factors that determine the value of this dollmaker's dolls. Early cloth dolls have become quite rare and can earn many thousands of dollars at auction. Also, dolls which had a limited release bring in top dollar. Mint condition dolls are more valuable than ones with crazing, discoloration, mussed hair or missing articles of clothing, but in the older dolls, these flaws are often overlooked. Desirability is less hard to predict. The faces and costumes of certain dolls simply have a tremendous appeal to buyers and bidding can go quite high when this is the case.

Example of a Madame Alexander Doll box

Extensive documentation has been done in book format on the many styles of this company's dolls, making identification of dolls fairly simple in most cases. However, dollmakers marks and boxes do play an important role in both their identifcation and in their value. One of the most common flaws in Madame Alexander dolls at auction is that they have lost their shoes and socks. Unfortunately, most played-with dolls, especially of the 8" kind, lost these accessories along the way, but replacements can be found.

A Final Note on Madame Alexander Dolls

My mother's love of these dolls no doubt informed my childhood opinion that Madame Alexander dolls were THE standard in wonderous, elegant dolls. I had my baby dolls, my little girl dolls from the local drug store, but my Storybook and International dolls were special. When I played with them, I handled them more gently. I spoke to them softly and played decorous games with them.

I believe that Madame Alexander's wish to teach little girls about the richness of fabrics, of culture, of literature, of art must have struck a true chord in me. Opening a gift from my parents, or from some loving and lavish relation, and seeing that blue and pink box is an experience I can still recall the breathless joy of. Those signature boxes contained not just any doll, but a Madame Alexander! Who would she be? What would she be wearing? Due to the hours I spent pouring over the tiny catalogues that came with these dolls, I was intimately acquainted with all of their names and costumes. And, then, to carefully lift this lid, to peer into the box...ah, bliss! A truly special doll.

Permission to display several of the photos on this page was graciously granted by the owner of the following eBay store, which often has lovely dolls in stock:

  • Honey and Shars