Aug 312012
 
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American Character was one of the leading doll makers in America from 1919 until the mid-sixties. While their composition dolls are sought after by collectors, it is the hard plastic and vinyl dolls of the 50s and 60s, such as Sweet Sue, Toni, Tiny Tears, Tressy and Betsy McCall, that are this company’s enduring legacy.


The company name was changed to American Doll and Toy Corp. in 1960; they also did business under the name American Miniature Doll Corp. during this same era. By 1968, they were no longer in business. For more information, see Judith Izen’s book American Character Dolls.

Click on a photo to see a larger version.

Composition Dolls
American Character’s early dolls were either all-composition, or had composition head and limbs with a cloth body. Many were sold under the trade name “Petite” and are marked and tagged with that name. Some of their popular baby dolls were Bottletot and Happytot. Little Love is a compo infant who resembles the famous Bye-Lo Baby doll. They made many little girl dolls as well, including Sally Joy and Carol Ann Beery, a celebrity doll representing the daughter of Hollywood actor Wallace Beery.

Composition baby doll by American Character This 13″ baby has a compo head and arms on a cloth body. Many of the Petite babies look very similar to one another, so exact identification is tricky.


Vintage Puggy doll by American Character Vintage Puggy doll by American Character Puggy is an all compo character boy made in the late 1920s. He is 13″ tall and has plenty of personality.
Vintage composition girl doll by American Character Vintage composition girl doll by American Character Vintage composition girl doll by American Character This girl doll is a companion to Puggy. The same doll with side-glancing eyes was sold as the Campbell Kid.


Composition Sally doll by American Character Composition Sally doll by American Character Sally was very similar to Effanbee’s popular Patsy family dolls. She was sold in the 1930s with molded hair or a mohair wig, and in an all-composition version as well as the one with cloth torso.

Hard Plastic Dolls
American Character’s best loved dolls are the ones made of hard plastic. In addition to the dolls described below, other hard plastic dolls made by the company include the I Love Lucy Baby (later made in vinyl and called Ricky Jr.), Toodles and Baby Sue.


Vintage Tiny Tears doll by American Character Vintage Vintage Tiny Tears doll by American Character Tiny Tears was one of American Character’s biggest successes. Not only could this doll drink and wet, she could cry too! She was made with a hard plastic head and rubber body from 1950 to ’58; and with a hard plastic head and vinyl body from 1959 to ’61, in several sizes. The earlier dolls had molded hair or a caracul (baby lambskin) wig, later on she had synthetic hair rooted into a vinyl skullcap inset into the top of her head. A rare black version was called Baby Tears. Various vinyl versions of Tiny Tears were made in the 1960s.


Vintage Sweet Sue doll by American Character Vintage Sweet Sue doll by American Character Vintage Sweet Sue doll by American Character Hard plastic Sweet Sue is the other doll most closely identified with American Character. She was produced from 1948 to 1956 in sizes ranging from 15″ to 31.” Early dolls had mohair wigs but most dolls have synthetic hair. Later dolls have the hair rooted into a vinyl skullcap which is inset in the top of the head. Some dolls have various American Character markings on the back of the head, but many are unmarked, which is a source of confusion and consternation for collectors. Vinyl head versions of Sweet Sue were made as well (see below).


Vintage Betsy McCall dolls by American Character Vintage Betsy McCall dolls by American Character Betsy McCall started life as a paper doll in McCall’s Magazine. She became three dimensional with Ideal’s vinyl version in 1952. In 1957, American Character began producing Betsy in this 8″ hard plastic version. She was hugely popular and had many extra outfits available. See below for other versions of Betsy. In recent years 8″ and 14″ Betsy have been reproduced by the Tonner Doll Co.
Photos courtesy of Withington Auction, Inc.

Vinyl Dolls
American Character began the vinyl era with stunningly beautiful and well-made dolls. As the years went by, they ventured into more unusual products and the quality generally declined. In addition to the dolls described below, other vinyl dolls they made include Ricky Jr., Baby Sue, Chuckles, Sonny Boy and Little Love. Toward the end of the company’s history, they made a line of vinyl action figures as a tie-in to the Bonanza TV series.


Lifesize Sweet Sue doll by American Character Lifesize Sweet Sue doll by American Character Life-Size Sweet Sue is 31″ tall with a vinyl head and arms on a hard plastic torso and legs. She was offered from 1954-56. Other vinyl versions of Sweet Sue include Walking Sweet Sue with Peekaboo Eyes and the Sweet Sue all vinyl toddler doll. These dolls were all little girls with flat feet, but Sweet Sue grew up and got glamour a few years later.
Photos courtesy of Lisa Hanson
Sweet Sue Sophisticate doll by American Character Sweet Sue Sophisticate doll by American Character Sweet Sue with Flexible Foot by American Character Sweet Sue Sophisticate is the grown up version of Sweet Sue. She has a mature figure and feet shaped to wear high heeled shoes. She was made in 14″, 20″ and 25″ sizes. Sweet Sue with Flexible Foot is very similar, but has jointed ankles which enable her to wear ballet slippers, high heels or flats; and a smaller sub-teen bustline.
Visit these pages for lots more information:
Sweet Sue SophisticateSweet Sue with Flexible Foot
Vintage Toni doll by American Character Vintage Toni dolls by American Character American Character’s version of Toni is nearly identical to Sweet Sue Sophisticate. She was made in 10″, 14″, 20″ and 25″ sizes. The 10″ version had many extra outfits which could be purchased separately. Toni was a tie-in to Gillette’s Toni Home Permanent and came with a Playwave kit to style her hair.
Visit these pages for lots more information:
10″ Toni10″ Toni’s Outfits14″, 20″ and 25″ Toni


Vintage Betsy McCall doll by American Character Vintage Betsy McCall doll by American Character The success of the 8″ Betsy McCall led American Character to introduce her in 14″ size with a vinyl head in 1958. This version was only available for two years. There was also a 20″ Betsy with flirty eyes; 22″ and 29″ dolls with a different face sculpt; and a 34″ companion-size Betsy. None of these larger dolls had extra outfits like the original 8″ Betsy.


Toodles by American Character Toodles was a name that American Character used over and over for baby dolls. There was a rubber version in the ’30s and a hard plastic version in the ’40s; but the all vinyl Toodles, made in several different versions in the 1950s and ’60s, is the one most well known today. The doll pictured is the earliest vinyl version, made from 1955 to ’59. She was a drink and wet baby, but lacked the crying feature of Tiny Tears. Later on there were infant, toddler and little girl versions of Toodles.


American Character Whimsies Annie the Astronut doll American Character Whimsies Freddy the Friar doll American Character Whimsies Trixie the Pixie doll American Character Whimsies Wheeler the Dealer doll The Whimsies were all vinyl novelty dolls that were aimed at older kids and teenagers. They were produced in 1960 and ’61. A total of 17 different styles were made. Pictured left to right are: Annie the Astronut, Freddy the Friar, Trixie the Pixie and Wheeler the Dealer. Another doll, Hedda Get Bedda, is similar to the Whimsies, except that her head rotates with three different faces: a sick face, a sleeping face, and happy “all bedda” face. There was also a series of Tiny Whimsies that were 6″ and 7.5″ tall, with less detail and glow in the dark shoes.


_doll (3K) _tresbox1 (1K) Tressy, introduced in 1963, was American Character’s version of Mattel’s Barbie. Tressy had something Barbie didn’t, however: “growing” hair that could be lengthened or shortened by means of a keywind mechanism. (Although the catalog illustration shows Tressy wearing navy blue, she was actually sold in a red dress.) Like Barbie, Tressy had extra oufits and a little sister (Cricket). Tressy’s friend Mary Makeup had very pale coloring that could be enhanced with colored pencils. A version of Tressy with this same feature was called Magic Makeup Tressy. Tressy was very popular and is commonly found today, although her extra outfits and playsets are harder to find. There was also a Pre-Teen Tressy, who had the grow-hair feature in a larger 14″ doll.


_echo (4K) Little Miss Echo is one of the battery-operated talking dolls made by American Character in the early 1960s. She is 30″ tall and has a tape recorder in her chest. Other talking dolls the company made include Sally Says, Babie Says and Babie Babbles. Suzy Two Steps is a battery operated walking doll made in 1966.
Photo courtesy of Nancy McKee.

Dolls of Other Materials
American Character also made dolls of rubber in the first half of the twentieth century. Most of these dolls have not survived because the rubber hardens, cracks and deteriorates over time. Many of their early hard plastic babies have rubber bodies, and they are hard to find in good condition.
The company made a brief foray into the manufacture of cloth dolls in the late fifties with Eloise, based on the children’s book character by Kay Thompson.

Sources for this page include:



Copyright 2006-2012 by Zendelle Bouchard.

Mar 192011
 
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At the San-D-over Doll Club meeting today, we had a program on Toni dolls. We watched the DVD “Which Doll is the Toni?” from UFDC and members brought in a variety of Tonis to share, including the original Ideal hard plastic dolls, the 10″ vinyl version from American Character and her larger sisters, and newer reproductions. I normally don’t care much for newer dolls, but was very impressed with the repros of the Ideal Toni by Tonner/Effanbee. They look just like the vintage dolls, with beautiful hair and lovely dresses. I wasn’t too taken by their repros of the American Character 13″ Toni though – she doesn’t have the charm of the original, in my opinion.

This type of program, with a DVD and show-and-tell, works well for a small doll club. What has your club been doing lately?