As any doll collector knows, specific types of dolls have specific identifying characteristics that help to distinguish them. When it comes to Madame Alexander doll identification, learning about the history, types and features of these unique dolls is essential. Not only will this information help you to identify and accurately appraise the value of your own dolls, it will also help you to identify and appraise the value of dolls that you may be interested in purchasing.
The first Madame Alexander dolls were handmade cloth creations made by Beatrice Alexander and her three sisters in the early 1920s. Their father, Maurice Alexander, was responsible for opening the first doll hospital in America in New York City in 1895, but after WWII-imposed trade embargoes made the import of German dolls to the family doll shop impossible, the Alexander sisters began to make their own dolls out of cloth, beginning with small dolls wearing the uniform of female Red Cross Workers.
Key Identifying Characteristics
Although the " classic" Madame Alexander doll face molds, featuring cherubic wide cheeks and small cupid's bow lips did not truly emerge until the 1930s, it is still possible to see early forms of these and other distinguishing features in the earliest cloth creations. In general, look for the following:
- The "Alexander" or "Mme. Alexander" mark located at the base of the hairline and in some cases, on the clothing tags. Not all dolls are marked, however.
- Representation of a famous person or popular literary character.
- Distinguishing features of each type.
Cloth Madame Alexander Dolls
These were the first type of Madame Alexander dolls, beginning with the early Red Cross dolls and most notably, the Alice doll from the classic novel "Alice In Wonderland." These Alexander dolls are considered by most doll collectors to be antiques, and feature bodies made of mostly cloth and felt and hand-painted facial features, most often with elongated eyelashes and the cupid's bow, or pointed lips that would become a Madame Alexander doll staple.
Beginning in the 1930s after the business began to grow and expand, composition dolls, made of plaster of Paris, paper, and sawdust, began to be made. These dolls were designed to be more realistic, and also more durable, then there cloth predecessors. Composition dolls can also be identified by their rounded, sleepy-looking open-close eyes.
Hard Plastic Dolls
In the 1940s and into the 1950s, the Alexander doll company began to manufacture dolls with hard plastic faces and bodies with the goal of creating a doll that was "unbreakable." During this period, the Cissy doll, the first Alexander doll to feature an adult woman's face and body, as opposed to the traditional toddler face and body, paving the way for the Jacqueline and Caroline dolls created in the 1960s.
Buying and Selling
Alexander dolls are still manufactured today, and continue to be popular with children and collectors alike. When deciding to buy or sell an Alexander doll, identifying the type of doll that you have or want is the first step. If you are buying or selling an older doll, you should also plan on having your doll appraised and making sure that any dolls you are considering have been professionally appraised. Remember, imitations do exist, so take the time to make sure that you are buying (or selling) the real thing.