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.
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.
|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.|
|Puggy is an all compo character boy made in the late 1920s. He is 13″ tall and has plenty of personality.|
|This girl doll is a companion to Puggy. The same doll with side-glancing eyes was sold as the Campbell Kid.|
|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.
|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.|
|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.
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.
|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 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 Sophisticate – Sweet Sue with Flexible Foot
|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″ Toni – 10″ Toni’s Outfits – 14″, 20″ and 25″ Toni
|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:
- American Character Dolls by Judith Izen
Copyright 2006-2012 by Zendelle Bouchard.