Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Madame Alexander's Margaret

Madame Alexander was Madame Beatrice Alexander Behrman, the daughter of Russian immigrants. Her father owned one of the first doll hospitals in the United States, and it was this background that gave Madame Alexander her love of dolls and inspired her to start her own line.

The Madame Alexander doll company was founded in 1923 in New York City (where it still operates today.) The company can boast a series of firsts in the doll industry: the first doll based on a licensed character (Scarlett from Gone With the Wind); the first to create character dolls in honor of living people (Princess Elizabeth, the Dionne Quints, Shari Lewis, Coco Chanel). Madame Alexander was also the first to introduce the first mature figured fashion doll with haute couture outfits (Cissy, followed by Elise and Jacqueline to name a few).

In the late 1940's, Madame Alexander designed a face sculpt and christened it Margaret. Dolls were subsequently manufactured and named for child actor Margaret O'Brien. Margaret played "Tootie" in the film "Meet Me in St Louis," whose character buried dolls who had died from some imaginary fatal disease. A Margaret O'Brien doll seems a perfect match.

The Margaret mold was also used for many other characters. Margaret was used for Little Women characters, Wendy from Peter Pan, storybook characters like Alice in Wonderland, and The Faerie Queen. Not all Margaret dolls are Margaret O'Brien. Madame Alexander distinguished her character dolls by what costumes they wore, as opposed to how their faces and bodies were sculpted. If you own a Margaret doll and don't have her original clothes, there's no telling who she might be, although her wig style may help to identify her.

A later addition to the Margaret collection, is Princess Margaret Rose, Queen Elizabeth's late sister. She also has a Margaret face.

Madame Alexander dolls from this era may or may not be marked on their backs or backs of their heads - so it's important to be familiar with the face sculpt when you're looking for a doll to add to your collection. Quality materials and craftsmanship are the hallmarks of a Madame Alexander doll.

I have three Margaret dolls, and they are all just that bit different. One 18 inch hard plastic Margaret came to me dressed in lingerie, so I have no idea whom she was originally intended to represent. Another hard plastic Margaret, a 14 inch version, is Wendy from Peter Pan. She wears her original costume - that's the only way I know who she is. The third Margaret is Princess Margaret Rose, a porcelain doll. In my opinion, Margaret is the most appealing of all the Madame Alexander face sculpts, although I have several other types as well.