A Short History of Madame Alexander & Her Lovely Dolls
Since their introduction in 1923, Madame Alexander Dolls have become an iconic symbol of childhood throughout the world. Known for their quality craftsmanship and lovely, well-made outfits, Madame Alexander Dolls provide an opportunity to bring a child’s imagination to life. Featuring classic figures from literature and history, Madame Alexander dolls represent the diversity, fashions, and beauty of the world we live in. Whether buying a first doll or adding to an existing collection, Madame Alexander dolls bring joy and happiness to people of all ages.
Who was Madame Alexander?
Bertha “Beatrice” Alexander Behrman was born in March 1895 in New York City. She was the daughter of a Jewish immigrant from present-day Ukraine, and she grew up in the vibrant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Behrman attended New York’s School of Sewing Design in 1909 and opened her own doll-making business in 1915. During the 1920s, she began making high-quality dolls, and is best known for creating the Madame Alexander doll line.
Throughout her career, Bertha Alexander Behrman received recognition and many awards for her dollmaking skills and her dedication to preserving craftsmanship and traditional doll-making methods. She was lovingly known as “the Queen of Dolls”. Madame Alexander passed away in 1990, but her dolls are still highly sought after today as examples of timeless craftsmanship, beauty, and the wonders of childhood.
The Materials of Madame Alexander
Madame Alexander’s earliest dolls were made of cloth. Beatrice and her sisters operated a small doll-making business in the back of their father’s doll hospital, (the first of its kind), in Brooklyn, NYC. In 1923, they switched from cloth to a composition material, which was made from sawdust, glue and resin.
The company continued to manufacture dolls in the composition material from molds in various New York factories until the mid-1940s. Fine examples of composition Madame Alexander dolls in excellent condition are highly sought-after by doll collectors around the globe. Since the composition material is somewhat more fragile than plastic, some minor condition issues don’t discourage collectors.
Madame Alexander took the doll world by storm in the late 1940s by switching doll production to the newly available hard plastic medium. Beatrice had long searched for a material that would allow her to create life-like features while also providing a new level of durability. From 1947-1959 Madame Alexander used hard plastic. The features remained hand-painted, which is why many collectors consider this era the peak in quality.
A Timeline of Materials & Sizes
The following are the most common sizes and materials used for Madame Alexander Dolls.
- Pre-1923: 16 inch cloth dolls
- 1923-1947: 7-20 inch composition dolls
- 1947-1959: 8-31 inch hard plastic dolls w/ painted features
- 1960s-Present: 8-21 inch vinyl plastic w/ stenciled features
- Baby dolls 12-20 inches, various
The Faces of Madame Alexander
Madame Alexander has used many face designs for these beloved dolls. Below is a list of some of the faces most commonly associated with Madame Alexander dolls throughout the years.
- Tiny Betty / Little Betty
- Wendy Ann
- Princess Elizabeth
- Jane Withers
- Sonja Henie
- Jeannie Walker / Special Girl
- and others
Hard Plastic Faces
- and others
- and others
Madame Alexander's Legacy
Since 1923, the Madame Alexander company has been creating dolls that are not only exquisitely designed but also possess a unique personality and character. With her Madame Alexander doll line and her willingness to try new things, evolve and refine her dolls throughout her lifetime, Beatrice rose from her humble beginnings in Brooklyn to become an influential American doll designer, entrepreneur and businesswoman who revolutionized the toy industry through persistence and innovation.
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