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What is Raggedy Ann?

By A. B. Kelsey
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Raggedy Ann is both a world famous fictional character and a rag doll created by the talented illustrator and cartoonist Johnny Gruelle. Stories say that candy-hearted Raggedy Ann comes alive when people aren’t watching and goes on wonderful adventures with her brave brother, Raggedy Andy.

Legends tell that the idea for Raggedy Ann originated on the day Gruelle’s small daughter, Marcella, burst into his art studio with an old, handmade rag doll she'd found in her grandmother’s attic. Putting aside his work, Gruelle drew new, whimsical facial features on the battered fabric. From his bookshelf, he pulled down a book of poetry written by family friend, James Witcomb Riley, and glanced at the title of the poems. He combined “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphan Annie,” and the doll named “Raggedy Ann” was born.

Johnny Gruelle patented the distinctive design for the Raggedy Ann character in 1915. Soon afterwards, he began pitching his ideas to publishing professionals, eventually being signed with the P.F. Volland Company, a children’s publisher in Chicago, Illinois. In 1918, Volland published Gruelle's first book, Raggedy Ann Stories. In a brilliant marketing move, Volland included a matching Raggedy Ann doll with each book. The rag doll with red yarn for hair was an instant star.

The next year saw a sequel entitled Raggedy Andy Stories, which introduced America to Raggedy Ann’s brother, a boy rag doll named Andy who was dressed in a sailor suit and hat. Gruelle managed to average one book per year for the next 20 years, and earned the affectionate nickname “The Raggedy Ann Man.”

Sadly, just before Raggedy Ann was introduced to the American public, thirteen-year-old Marcella tragically died from the ravages of an infected smallpox vaccination she had received at school without her parents’ consent. The Gruelles became an opponent of vaccination, and the Raggedy Ann doll was used as a symbol by the anti-vaccination movement. Marcella Gruelle appeared in her father’s 1929 tender remembrance, Marcella: A Raggedy Ann Story.

Johnny Gruelle's serial, "Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy," began being printed in American newspapers in 1922, and by 1934, his Raggedy Ann stories were in national syndication. By the time he passed away in 1938, Gruelle's Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls and books were known across the globe. Raggedy Ann has been so popular in America that she was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2001 and her brother, Raggedy Andy, joined her five years later. The books have been reprinted repeatedly, the fanciful stories renewing Raggedy Ann for every generation of children.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Feb 11, 2015

@dega2010: I have a Raggedy Ann by Knickerbocker that was made in the mid-1970s. I must have gotten her about the time my grandmother died, so that would have been in 1975. I wish I had the box and all, but no one knew then how valuable dolls are when they still have the boxes.

In any event, my Raggedy Ann was well-loved and I'm not sure she would be worth much of anything now, except to me. I did love that doll. I think I still have her original dress and pinafore, and she still has her original hair.

By dega2010 — On Jan 01, 2011

@dinoleash: In the article, it stated that the first Raggedy Ann doll was made in 1915. She has brown hair and shoe button eyes. If you have one in good condition, it can be worth over $1000.00.

If you are fortunate enough to own a doll with dark brown hair that was produced by Volland and has a marking on it of “Patented September 7, 1915”, you really have a treasure. This particular primitive Raggedy Ann doll is sought after by many collectors.

There were some produced by Knickerbocker Toy Company between 1963 and 1982 are worth around $100.00

By DinoLeash — On Dec 29, 2010

I have several Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls that are more than 50 years old. Does anyone know what the value of the dolls would be now?

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