Photo copyright Nancy McKee. Visit Nancy's shop.
Arranbee was founded in 1919 in New York City. In the early years of the company, they imported bisque head dolls from Armand Marseille and Simon & Halbig in Germany. They also sold all-bisque dolls and composition mama dolls, as well as doll hospital supplies including wigs, parts, and shoes. In 1925, they opened their own factory in New York manufacturing composition dolls. They kept up with changes in the industry, switching to hard plastic in the '40s and vinyl in the '50s. The company made many of its own dolls, but also purchased dolls from other manufacturers to dress and market under their own name. While not being ground-breakingly original, Arranbee dolls are noted for their beauty and high quality, both in the dolls and their clothing. Company founder and president William Rothstein died unexpectedly in 1957; his family continued the firm for a short while, then sold it to the Vogue Doll Co. Vogue continued the Arranbee name and some of the lines until 1961. Fortunately for collectors, many Arranbee dolls are marked. Here are some of their more notable dolls:
- Dream Baby or My Dream Baby was the first of Arranbee's dolls to have a name. There is a closed-mouth version (A.M. mold number 341) and an open-mouth version (mold number 351). Some dolls have stuffed cloth bodies with compo or rubber hands, while others have full jointed compo bodies. After the company started making their own composition dolls, they continued using the Dream Baby name. There is a wide variety of compo Dream Babies, including dolls with painted eyes or sleep eyes, molded hair or mohair wigs, in a range of sizes. Dream Baby continued into the '50s in a hard plastic version.
- Nancy was first made in composition starting in 1931. A few different head molds were used for this molded hair Patsy-type doll (complete with bent right arm) who ranged from 11" to 14" in height. Nancy was also made in a line of 16" to 20" chubbier toddler dolls with sleep eyes and mohair wigs.
- Debu'teen was introduced in 1938. She represented a young teenage girl, with a slim body and a wistful expression, and was made in sizes from 13" to 22". Larger dolls have a compo socket head on a shoulder plate, with cloth torso and compo limbs, while the smaller dolls are all composition. She was sold in a wide variety of well-made outfits including school clothes, dressy clothes, sporting outfits and military uniforms. The Sporting Women series of dolls by Vogue greatly resemble Debu'teen, and were probably made by Arranbee for Vogue in an unmarked version.
- Around the World and Storybook dolls from the late '30s and early '40s are 9" all-composition characters with molded hair and painted eyes. The same doll was used for both boy and girl characters, such as Snow White, Pirate, Dutch Boy and Girl, etc.
- Nannette is a composition and cloth mama doll with swing legs. She was sold from 1937 until 1943, when the spelling of her name was changed to Nanette. She was sold until about 1947, when the company switched production to hard plastic dolls. The hard plastic version of Nanette is a little girl doll, virtually indistinguishable from Nancy Lee. In the fifties, Nanette was made with a vinyl head and hard plastic body. The last version of Nanette was an 18" all vinyl high-heeled glamour doll.
- Nancy Lee was a true little girl doll. She did not have the chubbiness of the Nancy and Nannette toddlers, but she was not quite as slim as Debu'teen. The compo version, who made her debut in 1943, generally has smoky eye shadow. The hard plastic version was sold from the late '40s into the late '50s.
- 12" Little Angel and 10" Littlest Angel are toddler fashion dolls. Many extra outfits were available for them. Little Angel was not as popular as her smaller sibling, and was discontinued in 1955. Littlest Angel was later made with jointed knees, and starting in 1956 had a vinyl head with rooted hair. Littlest Angel was one of the dolls that Vogue continued to sell under the R&B name after they bought the company.
- Coty Girl was a 10" vinyl glamour doll made to compete with Ideal's Little Miss Revlon. She had many extra outfits and was advertised extensively. This doll is very difficult to identify because she is marked only with a P in a circle, as were many other small glamour dolls of the era. The 18" Coty Girl is the same doll as the high-heeled Nanette.
Sources for this page include:
- "Arranbee Dolls" by Suzanne L. DeMillar and Dennis J. Brevik
- "Dolls & Accessories of the 1930s and 1940s" by Dian Zillner
- "Dolls & Accessories of the 1950s" by Dian Zillner
Copyright 2006 by Zendelle Bouchard.
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