Raggedy Ann and Andy are considered the world's most famous rag dolls. Through the literary works of their creator, Johnny Gruelle, the dolls set out on high spirited adventures, teaching children kindness, trustworthiness, and perseverance along the way.
Gruelle gave life to the dolls in 1915, but mystery surrounds the tale of how he became inspired to create them. The most famous explanation has never been proven true or false but it goes like this:
One day a little girl bursts into her fathers study, carrying a doll with no face. The girl explains to her father that she had found the doll in her grandmother’s attic. This girl is no other than Gruelle’s daughter, Marcella. The doll is tattered, worn, and battered. Pushing his work aside, Gruelle picked up the doll and studied his daughters face. He takes his pen and delicately draws a whimsical face on the tattered doll. Afterward, he and his daughter decided the doll needed a name. Reaching for a stack of books, he pulled out two of his favorites, “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphan Annie.” He asks his daughter if a good name would be, “Raggedy Ann.”
The legend continues that it is from that moment Gruelle became inspired to write the children stories of Raggedy Ann and her brother Andy.
However, there is a tragic and very real ending to the story of how Raggedy Ann was created. Gruelle’s muse, his daughter, died at the very young age of 13 from a vaccination for small pox that was administered at her school without her parents' consent. Her parents were devastated during what should have been a time of celebration for the family, as during the very same month of his daughter's death, Gruelle was granted approval by the U.S. patent office for the doll called “Raggedy Ann.”
The books were a success and Gruelle’s publisher suggested the marketing and selling of the dolls. Grulle averaged one new book per year for twenty years. In 1929, he published a tender remembrance to his daughter titled, “Marcella: A Raggedy Ann Story.”