Hall, Patricia. Raggedy Ann and More: Johnny Gruelle's Dolls and Merchandise. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-56554-102-2.
- Rhode, Michael. [review.] International Journal of Comic Art 3.1 (Spring 2001): 280-81.
Cartoonists, children's books, and merchandise have been linked since the late nineteenth century. While Charles Schulz, Jim Davis, Berke Breathed, and especially Walt Disney are well known to the contemporary reader, Johnny Gruelle has largely been forgotten. Patricia Hall has been working to reintroduce Gruelle, and this book is the second in a planned trilogy. The first was a biography, Johnny Gruelle, Creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy (1993) and the third planned for spring 2001 will be a bibliography. Gruelle was an artist who moved easily between the worlds of comic strips, political cartoons, and children's books, eventually creating a family business that lasted until the 1960s.
Gruelle's life is recounted briefly by Hall, but readers interested in detail are referred to her previous book. This extremely well-illustrated book concentrates on the physical products derived from Gruelle's imagination. As a cartoonist for the New York Herald, Gruelle created the "Mr. Twee Deedle" comic strip which was merchandized as a doll by the newspaper immediately. While doing the comic strip, he also illustrated children's magazines and books. In 1915, he submitted a design for a patent on Raggedy Ann, a doll that was apparently partially based on characters from his comic strip.
The patent was granted and Gruelle began making his own dolls. Raggedy Ann was not based on a familiar character and initial sales were slow. Gruelle generated interest in the doll by contracting with publisher P. F. Volland for a children's book based on the doll. Other characters he developed, such as the duck Quacky Doodles, proved more popular and merchandising included a cartoon series. By late 1918, Gruelle had completed his book on Raggedy Ann and dolls were produced to be sold with it. The book and doll combination was a success and Gruelle continued producing merchandizable ideas until he died in 1938. His family took over the company and continued licensing Gruelle's characters until they sold the company to a book publisher.
Probably because of marketing concerns, the book is a curious mixture of a business history attractively designed as a full-color coffee table book that includes a price guide. Hall writes to appeal to historians as well as collectors of children's books, dolls, toys, and cartoons. Many sidebar pieces detail specific parts of Gruelle's business efforts, such as books, sheet music, and copyright infringements. Anyone interested in Gruelle, cartoon merchandising, book or doll collecting, or popular culture of the first half of the twentieth century should find something of interest in this book.
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