Advertising dolls provide an interesting look at the history of consumer products in America. Who remembers Force cereal, Blatz beer or Fletcher’s Castoria? But through their advertising and trademark characters, these products will live forever.
Most advertising dolls are made of cloth, simple “pancake” dolls with one piece for the front and one for the back, stitched together and stuffed. Some were printed on fabric and sold by the piece, to be stitched and stuffed at home. But there are advertising dolls of all materials, including vinyl, hard plastic, composition and even cast iron.
There are several types of advertising dolls. The most popular and familiar dolls promote the company’s trademark character. This might be Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes cereal; the Campbell Kids for Campbell’s Soup; or Aunt Jemima for the pancake mix made by Quaker Oats. Another type of advertising doll is the licensed doll. This doll, like Ideal’s Little Miss Revlon or Toni by Ideal and American Character, incorporates the name and concept of the product without actually being used in the company’s own advertising. The least desirable type of advertising doll is the premium doll, which is used by the company to sell product (“Send in 3 boxtops and 25 cents”) but otherwise has no connection to the product. One example of this type is the Fun Fair clown offered by Kellogg’s in 1973. A fourth type of advertising doll, and the hardest to find, are the dolls that were not made available to the general public, but used solely as display pieces in stores. One example is the RCA Victor Sellin’ Fool doll made to be displayed in RCA dealerships in the ’20s. The doll was based on an illustration by Maxfield Parrish and is very hard to find today.
Advertising dolls are still being sold today, although they are far more likely to take the form of teddy bears than dolls.
Click on a photo to view a larger image.
|Two slightly different variations of the Ceresota Boy from 1912,
advertising the company’s flour. This is a cut and sew doll, beautifully printed in oil colors. His hat brim gives three dimensional interest.
|Kellogg’s 10″ Johnny Bear dates from 1926. The cut and sew panel was
available for 10 cents plus one box top from Kellogg’s cereals. He was part of a set with
Goldilocks, Papa Bear and Mama Bear.
|Aunt Jemima is one of the most recognizable trademark characters in
American history. She and her family have been made in doll form since 1895. This cut and sew version is from 1929.
|This rare Hotpoint character has a composition head and segmented wood body. He was probably made by Cameo, as they made other dolls in this style. He dates from about 1930 and may have been a store display or promotional doll. Photo courtesy of eBay seller lchristoo.|
|Captain Bill and Stewardess Sue, “the Mainliner Dolls” were produced by the Toyad Corp. of Latrobe, PA in 1940 as a tie-in with United Airlines. They are 7″ tall, made of rubber, and were sold in stores as a set for $1.00.|
|Kleeko the Eskimo was the trademark character for Cliquot Club beverages. This doll is stuffed vinyl fabric, date unknown, but probably mid-twentieth century.|
|Colgate Palmolive’s 8″ Fab Picture Doll was a premium for Fab Detergent. She was
available for $1 plus one Fab box top in 1957.
|The Janzten Girl was a 10.5″ vinyl high heeled doll sold by Valentine in 1957 as a tie in to Jantzen clothing. She came with a complete wardrobe of clothing.|
|Ideal’s Revlon Doll (shown far left), available in four sizes, and 10″ Little Miss Revlon licensed the name of the cosmetics line in the late 1950s. They are very high quality dolls, and were widely imitated.|
|Polly Ponds Beauty Doll and Polly Ponds Bride Doll were made by Citro Manufacturing in the late fities or early sixties, as a tie in to Ponds Cold Cream. She is 24″ tall.|
|Little Mr. Bad Boy was produced by Earle Pullan and other Canadian companies in 1961 as a promotion for the Bad Boy Furniture Company. Photo courtesy of eBay seller Connectibles.|
|Miss Babbitt is a strange doll that combines a hard plastic Ginny-type head on a slim vinyl fashion doll body. She was offered by Bab-O Cleanser in the early sixties.|
|Elsie has been the spokescow of the Borden Company since 1937. She was first made in a 15″ plush version with vinyl head in the 1950s. The doll pictured has the same vinyl head, but a woven cloth body, and she is 21″ tall. She is missing her hat, collar and shoes. Her date of manufacture is unknown. Elsie’s calves Beauregard, Latabee and Lobelia have also been made. Photos courtesy of eBay seller art-in-mind.|
|Vermont Maid is a 15″ vinyl doll made by Uneeda in 1964 for Vermont Maid Syrup. She is marked “U // 16” on the back of her head.|
|This bizarre cloth doll from 1968 was one of four offered by the Brunswick Corporation to promote bowling.|
|This is the first version of Tony the Tiger, offered by Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes in 1970. He is 13″ tall with a fabric head and furry body.|
|Gilbert Giddyup is a stuffed cloth doll that was available from Hardee’s restaurants in 1971.|
|Ronald McDonald, the face of McDonald’s Corporation, has been made in doll form since 1971. The doll pictured is the first version of Ronald. He is a 16″ stuffed cloth doll and was available only from the restaurants. The following year a Hamburglar doll was offered. In 1976, Remco made vinyl versions of all the McDonald’s characters for sale in retail stores. Photo courtesy of eBay seller silverknight52.|
|Campbell Kids dolls have been made in many different materials over several decades. The pair of 10″ vinyl dolls at far left dates from 1971, and were available for $2 each plus two soup labels. The 16.5″ cloth dolls shown were sold at retail stores in 1973. Photos of cloth dolls courtesy of eBay seller your-favorite-doll.|
|Charlie the Tuna, Starkist’s clueless trademark character, was available in several different cloth premium versions in the 1970s. The vinyl figure shown was probably sold in retail stores, and is also from that era. He was made by Product People, Inc. More recently, Charlie has been made in beanie and plush versions. Photos courtesy of eBay seller art-in-mind.|
|Kellogg’s offered three different Fun Fair Clowns as premiums in 1973.|
|The Texaco Cheerleader doll was sold at Texaco gas stations in 1973. She is a Barbie-sized doll, and is marked Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of eBay seller art-in-mind.|
|Closeup Toothpaste offered 6 vinyl Disney Characters as premiums in 1974.|
|17″ Tropic-Ana cloth doll was offered for $2.00 on cartons of orange juice in 1977.|
|The Gerber Baby has been made in several different versions by various companies since 1936. The dolls pictured each have a vinyl head and limbs on a cloth body. The doll at far left, made by Atlanta Novelty in 1979, is 17″ long with flirty eyes that look from side to side. The doll at near left is from 1989, made by Lucky Industrial. She is 16″ long and has sleep eyes with very stiff lashes, and strange orange lip paint. Photo of 1979 doll courtesy of Martin Auction Co.|
|Missy and The Wrangler advertised Wrangler clothing. They were made by Ertl in the early 1980s. They are 11.5″ tall and each had a few extra outfits. Photos courtesy of eBay seller franklin2000.|
|Snap, Crackle and Pop are the trademark characters for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal. The little elves were designed by illustrator Vernon Grant in the 1930s and have been made several times in doll form. The dolls shown are by Product People and probably date to the 1980s. The same dolls in different boxes are shown here on Amazon.com.
Photo courtesy of eBay seller art-in-mind.
|Handy Andy Home Improvement Centers was a midwestern US chain of big-box hardware stores that was in business from 1980 until 1996. Mr. Handy Andy is a plush doll about 14″ tall with faux fur hair, eyebrows and moustache. He wears denim jeans, a red shirt and green vest.
Photos courtesy of eBay seller art-in-mind.
|There have been at least four different dolls made to advertise Swiss Miss Cocoa. The first two came out in 1962 – you can see them here on the Jolly Toys page. In 1977, there was a cloth version, and in 1990, they issued the 14″ doll pictured at left, who has a vinyl head and hands on a cloth body, with yarn hair.|
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