Some of my first Raggedy Ann dolls; these were made in the early 90s during my first pregnancy.
Johnny Gruelle (December 24, 1880 – January 9, 1938) was an American artist, political cartoonist, children’s book author and illustrator (and even songwriter). He is known as the creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. He had such confidence in his design that often he would create the final ink work without first sketching in pencil.
Sketch of Raggedy Ann and Andy by Gruelle.
He was born John Barton Gruelle in Arcola, Illinois. His father Richard Gruelle was an artist affiliated with Hoosier Group of Indiana artists. His first well known cartooning work was Mr. Twee Deedle which Gruelle created after he beat out 1,500 entrants to win a cartooning contest sponsored in 1911 by The New York Herald. Mr. Twee Deedle was in print from 1911 to 1914.
Gruelle gave his daughter Marcella a dusty, faceless rag doll which she found in the attic. He drew a face on the doll and named her Raggedy Ann. Marcella played with the doll so much, Gruelle figured other children would like the doll too. Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann doll U.S. Patent D47,789 was dated September 7, 1915. In 1918, the PF Volland Company published Raggedy Ann Stories. Gruelle then created a series of popular Raggedy Ann books and dolls. These became Volland’s major source of revenue.
Marcella Gruelle, after being vaccinated at her school for smallpox, was given an unidentified second shot without parental consent. She soon contracted diphtheria and died at the age of 13. After this blow, family friends described Gruelle as “possessed, with a heavy countenance, and … with the only thing he would bear to have near him as a reminder of Marcella a rag doll.”
Gruelle lived in the Silvermine section of New Canaan, Connecticut, where the dolls were first mass produced, and later moved his home and company to neighboring Wilton, Connecticut. Gruelle spent a year in Ashland, Oregon from 1923-1924. He had a long-standing heart condition, and died in Miami Beach, Florida on January 8, 1938, of a heart attack.
- Works by Johnny Gruelle at Project Gutenberg
- Raggedy History from publishers Simon & Schuster
- Johnny Gruelle, Inspired Illustrator by Patricia Hall
- Toonopedia entry on Mr Twee Deedle
- Johnny Gruelle at Find a Grave
(My favorite Raggedy story read to me when I was small.)
RAGGEDY ANN AND THE STRANGE DOLLS
Raggedy Ann lay just as Marcella had dropped her–all sprawled out with
her rag arms and legs twisted in ungraceful attitudes.
Her yarn hair was twisted and lay partly over her face, hiding one of
her shoe-button eyes.
Raggedy gave no sign that she had heard, but lay there smiling at the
Perhaps Raggedy Ann knew that what the new dolls said was true.
But sometimes the truth may hurt and this may have been the reason
Raggedy Ann lay there so still.
“Did you ever see such an ungainly creature!”
“I do believe it has shoe buttons for eyes!”
“And yarn hair!”
“Mercy, did you ever see such feet!”
The Dutch doll rolled off the doll sofa and said “Mamma” in his quavery
voice, he was so surprised at hearing anyone speak so of beloved Raggedy
Ann–dear Raggedy Ann, she of the candy heart, whom all the dolls loved.
Uncle Clem was also very much surprised and offended. He walked up in
front of the two new dolls and looked them sternly in the eyes, but he
could think of nothing to say so he pulled at his yarn mustache.
Marcella had only received the two new dolls that morning. They had come
in the morning mail and were presents from an aunt.
Marcella had named the two new dolls Annabel-Lee and Thomas, after her
aunt and uncle.
Annabel-Lee and Thomas were beautiful dolls and must have cost heaps and
heaps of shiny pennies, for both were handsomely dressed and had _real_
Annabel’s hair was of a lovely shade of auburn and Thomas’ was golden
Annabel was dressed in soft, lace-covered silk and upon her head she
wore a beautiful hat with long silk ribbons tied in a neat bow-knot
beneath her dimpled chin.
Thomas was dressed in an Oliver Twist suit of dark velvet with a lace
collar. Both he and Annabel wore lovely black slippers and short
They were sitting upon two of the little red doll chairs where Marcella
had placed them and where they could see the other dolls.
When Uncle Clem walked in front of them and pulled his mustache they
laughed outright. “Tee-Hee-Hee!” they snickered, “He has holes in his
Quite true. Uncle Clem was made of worsted and the moths had eaten his
knees and part of his kiltie. He had a kiltie, you see, for Uncle Clem
was a Scotch doll.
Uncle Clem shook, but he felt so hurt he could think of nothing to say.
He walked over and sat down beside Raggedy Ann and brushed her yarn hair
away from her shoe-button eye.
The tin soldier went over and sat beside them.
“Don’t you mind what they say, Raggedy!” he said, “They do not know you
as we do!”
“We don’t care to know her!” said Annabel-Lee as she primped her dress,
“She looks like a scarecrow!”
“And the Soldier must have been made with a can opener!” laughed
“You should be ashamed of yourselves!” said the French dolly, as she
stood before Annabel and Thomas, “You will make all of us sorry that you
have joined our family if you continue to poke fun at us and look down
upon us. We are all happy here together and share in each others’
adventures and happiness.”
Now, that night Marcella did not undress the two new dolls, for she had
no nighties for them, so she let them sit up in the two little red doll
chairs so they would not muss their clothes. “I will make nighties for
you tomorrow!” she said as she kissed them good night. Then she went
over and gave Raggedy Ann a good night hug. “Take good care of all my
children, Raggedy!” she said as she went out.
Annabel and Thomas whispered together, “Perhaps we have been too hasty
in our judgment!” said Annabel-Lee. “This Raggedy Ann seems to be a
favorite with the mistress and with all the dolls!”
“There must be a reason!” replied Thomas, “I am beginning to feel sorry
that we spoke of her looks. One really cannot help one’s looks after
Now, Annabel-Lee and Thomas were very tired after their long journey and
soon they fell asleep and forgot all about the other dolls.
When they were sound asleep, Raggedy Ann slipped quietly from her bed
and awakened the tin soldier and Uncle Clem and the three tiptoed to the
two beautiful new dolls.
They lifted them gently so as not to awaken them and carried them to
Raggedy Ann’s bed.
Raggedy Ann tucked them in snugly and lay down upon the hard floor.
The tin soldier and Uncle Clem both tried to coax Raggedy Ann into
accepting their bed (they slept together), but Raggedy Ann would not
hear of it.
“I am stuffed with nice soft cotton and the hard floor does not bother
me at all!” said Raggedy.
At daybreak the next morning Annabel and Thomas awakened to find
themselves in Raggedy Ann’s bed and as they raised up and looked at each
other each knew how ashamed the other felt, for they knew Raggedy Ann
had generously given them her bed.
There Raggedy Ann lay; all sprawled out upon the hard floor, her rag
arms and legs twisted in ungraceful attitudes.
“How good and honest she looks!” said Annabel. “It must be her
“How nicely her yarn hair falls in loops over her face!” exclaimed
Thomas, “I did not notice how pleasant her face looked last night!”
“The others seem to love her ever and ever so much!” mused Annabel. “It
must be because she is so kind.”
Both new dolls were silent for a while, thinking deeply.
“How do you feel?” Thomas finally asked.
“Very much ashamed of myself!” answered Annabel, “And you, Thomas?”
“As soon as Raggedy Ann awakens, I shall tell her just how much ashamed
I am of myself and if she can, I want her to forgive me!” Thomas said.
“The more I look at her, the better I like her!” said Annabel.
“I am going to kiss her!” said Thomas.
“You’ll awaken her if you do!” said Annabel.
But Thomas climbed out of bed and kissed Raggedy Ann on her painted
cheek and smoothed her yarn hair from her rag forehead.
And Annabel-Lee climbed out of bed, too, and kissed Raggedy Ann.
Then Thomas and Annabel-Lee gently carried Raggedy Ann and put her in
her own bed and tenderly tucked her in, and then took their seats in the
two little red chairs.
After a while Annabel said softly to Thomas, “I feel ever and ever so
much better and happier!”
“So do I!” Thomas replied. “It’s like a whole lot of sunshine coming
into a dark room, and I shall always try to keep it there!”
Fido had one fuzzy white ear sticking up over the edge of his basket and
he gave his tail a few thumps against his pillow.
Raggedy Ann lay quietly in bed where Thomas and Annabel had tucked her.
And as she smiled at the ceiling, her candy heart (with “I LOVE YOU”
written on it) thrilled with contentment, for, as you have probably
guessed, Raggedy Ann had not been asleep at all!