One of my great joys of collecting is finding research material from the actual period that I am collecting. Some of the most interesting information and details of manufacturing show up this way. Several years ago I ran across a page from a Christmas catalog offering an assortment of dolls from the 1957 collection of the Alexander Doll Company. This page featured the type of artwork that was typically provided by the Alexander Doll Company for its retailers: Newspaper Mats and Glossy Prints available to you by request – was part of the Alexander Doll Company’s catalog given out to buyers. However, this merchant’s catalogs cover is a delightful drawing a-la-mode of a stylized interpretation of the American home in all its I-like-Ike glory. When you start to put the parts and pieces together, there is an unfolding of some of the many elements that are the story of the Alexander Doll Company.
1957 was maybe the pinnacle of the glory days of the Alexander Doll Company, which was operating three facilities. One of these, in White Plains New York, was shared with American Character and Arranbee. This facility is credited with the painting of the Alexander doll’s faces – up to 1,500 a day. However, another American icon, the family-owned, city landmark department store was also in its zenith, with the mall experience still a decade away. This particular catalog was from Forbes and Wallace, Springfield, Massachusetts. Their building had eight floors, with the eighth floor dedicated to the children’s departments. The Forbes & Wallace Russian Tea Room not only encouraged shoppers to stay in the store and return to shopping but also created a social experience and children’s memories. Going to see Santa and sit in his lap provided a unique emotional connection provided by these family-owned emporiums. Built in 1905, Forbes and Wallace went out of business in 1976. The downtown Springfield store was torn down in 1983. Downtowns had changed, and so had customers buying habits. A few of these retail palaces find a new life with a new purpose. Most get leveled – with the real estate more valuable than an attempt at renovation. Monarch Place has now incorporated the space.
The journey from Toy Fair, where the dolls are first viewed, to placing the dolls on the merchants selling floor is a long one. The chain of events for the department store developed a unique Alexander/Buyer/Merchant connection. Dolls being shown at the February Toy Fair were created, photographed, and text is written and worked out by fall of the previous year. Everything would be at the printers by January so buyers could walk away with the printed catalog in February at the New York Toy Fair. These were basically mock-up dolls at this point. Only after Toy Fair would materials be ordered and actual production start in quantities based on the number generated by Toy Fair plus a percentage of overage. This would be based on Christmas shipment. Some fabric prints and other parts and pieces might give out before all orders were filled. By mutual agreement, a comparable costume or character would be substituted.
The Alexander Doll Company would not have had the space to store shipments of an entire line or worked on the production of an entire line at once. It is typical in the industry to ship production numbers to retailers as they are completed – with an agreement that the merchant would not be billed until the “ship by date” (i.e., October) and the store cannot sell until the billing. Forbes and Wallace made its selection of seven dolls to feature on this page. Given top billing, three Cissy’s are featured. Making her debut in 1957 was Elise. 16-1/2” to Cissy’s official size of 21”. Another 1957 introduction to the production line was Dumplin’ Baby. One of the dolls innovative features was that a 23 ½” doll was light enough for even a young child to carry around. The final doll illustrated in the Forbes & Wallace Christmas 1957 catalog page is Kathy Cry-Dolly.
The journey of dolls designed, produced, delivered, received, displayed and purchased is all part of the Alexander Doll Company story. Mme Alexander was a rare combination of shrewd businesswoman with artistic talent. There were hundreds of retailers and merchants across the country that is part of this story. By a whim of eBay, this small slice of the big picture emerged of one of many fine emporiums that went through the buying process to compete with their own competition. While this might have been assumed to be the final page of this story, now as vintage dolls, this page is a long way off. Toys have morphed into collectibles, with some dolls like Cissy and the highly desirable earlier hard plastic dolls, could even be considered investments of an American art form. Cissy has been referred to as “the Jumeau of tomorrow” – many of these beautiful dolls have evolved into their own clubs and study groups. America is in a new phase of newly appreciating it’s great heritage and things American. There is not a better representation of this then the art and artistry of Mme Alexander and the Alexander Doll Company.
FAO Schwarz Reopens First NYC Store
The iconic toy store brand, known for interactive displays like its famous giant piano, is opening up a new store in Rockefeller Plaza. The store is opening November 16 and will be ready for the holiday rush. FAO Schwarz was originally known for its iconic store on Fifth Avenue. The new store is about five blocks south of the old one. The store is being developed by Threesixty Group, a product developer and distributor, which purchased the entire FAO Schwarz brand from Toys R Us in 2016.
Project Runway 2018 - Moves Back to Bravo
Taking over for Tim Gunn who is moving to new programming at Amazon with Heidi Klum, Christian Siriano is coming back to Project Runway! The famed fashion designer will return to the competition as mentor when it comes back to Bravo for a new season next year. “‘Project Runway’ has offered such wonderful opportunities for so many and I’m excited to take on this role as a mentor,” Christian said in a statement. “I hope to guide and inspire the new talent on the rise.”
Supermodel Karlie Kloss was also announced as the new host, as well as an executive producer, of Project Runway Wednesday, along with returning judge Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia and new judges fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and journalist and former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth.
Flowers Fit for a Princess at Windsor Castle
While every detail of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank’s wedding ceremony was broadcast to 3 million people in the United Kingdom, their wedding reception was private, for family and friends only. Just the most basic details (like the evening party location, the Royal Lodge) were made public. The florals were created by Simon Lycett and Paul Thomas Flowers, using fall foliage and eco-friendly materials from Windsor Great Park.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world.