Tuesday, June 26, 2012
DOLLS: MADAME ALEXANDER, The First Lady of Dolls (c) By Polly Guerin
THE LATE BEATRICE ALEXANDER BEHRMAN While Madame Alexander was a doll maker of rare imagination, the series of dolls inspired by the pages of her beloved childhood storybooks live on for the young-at-heart everywhere. Alexander Doll Company, founded in 1923 is nearly 100 years old yet it continues the tradition of ‘hand-crafted quality workmanship, made in America’ dolls. Madame Alexander was a visionary, a woman determined to succeed. She started making dolls on her kitchen table in Brooklyn when she was 28 and firmly believed that dolls should engage a child’s imagination, educate and expand their vision of the world. Over the years dolls were inspired by fairy tales, movies and celebrities. The Secret Garden trunk and its wardrobe, the Little Princess, Little Women, Cinderella, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind series all attest to the legend of hand-crafted excellence. Madame Alexander was the day star who managed the company until 1986, continuing on as a design consultant until her death at 95 in 1990. Pictured above: Madame Beatrice Alexander examining the Queen Elizabeth II doll from the Coronation set.
MADAME ALEXANDER DOLL FIRSTS A master innovator, Madame Alexander’s original outpouring was prolific. In 1940 Jeannie Walker, one of the first walking dolls, made her debut as did the first dolls with life-like sleep eyes, that open and close. Production of the Sonja Henie (Olympic Skating star) doll also began at this time. High fashion was on her mind when in 1955 she introduced the first full-figured fashion doll called Cissy who wore designer fashions. Honors poured in and in the 1960s she was honored on United Nations Day for her international series of dolls. The same year the Smithsonian Institute selected two of Madame Alexander’s creations to include in its doll collection: the Madame doll from the American Revolution series and the Scarlett O’Hara doll. Film tie-ins include the 1970s production of large Sound of Music dolls with the release of the film. The First Lady of Dolls received FAO Schwartz’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986. Always on top of the news, in 1990 the Welcome Home series of dolls commemorating those who served in Operation Desert Storm were put on the market.
THE KAHN LUCAS STORY This privately held, fourth-generation family firm, has an even longer history than Alexander Doll. Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania it was founded in 1889. The firm manufactured fashion for sizes, newborn to 16, carried nationwide at stores including J.C. Penney, Sears, and Toys “R” and Wall-Mart. The acquisition of Alexander Doll places Kahn Lucas at the top of its genre competing to a degree with the American Girl, a division of Mattel. The manufacturing headquarters of Alexander Doll is located in the heart of Harlem, New York at 615 W. 131st St, New York, N.Y. with showrooms at 200 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.
The Madame Alexander Fan Club was started in 1960s by Margaret Wilson. It was based in Texas and sponsored an annual convention. Of its 12,000 or more female members 40 percent are curiously male.
THANK GOODNESS FOR LITTLE GIRLS AND THANK GOODNESS FOR MADAME ALEXANDER, THE FIRST LADY OF DOLLS, WHOSE DOLL CREATIONS INSPIRED THE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE OF ALL GIRLS YOUNG AT HEART.
Posted by Polly Guerin at 8:05 AM