Rag dolls are one of the oldest toys in history, dating right back to Roman times. They were traditionally made using scraps of material, and were stuffed with sawdust, straw or cloth. Today they are still made of cloth but different materials are used to stuff them and sometimes to make their clothes. All Powell Craft rag dolls are made of cloth and many of the dolls are inspired by some famous historical characters of the genre.
Rag dolls have always been a favourite with children but they became particularly well known after featuring in a number of children’s stories, first in books and then on television. One of the first to become famous is Raggedy Ann, a fictional character created by American writer John Barton Gruelle in 1918.
Raggedy Ann featured in a series of books written and illustrated for young children. She had red yarn for hair and a triangle nose. An actual doll was sold alongside the books, to great success, and Raggedy Ann became hugely popular.
A sequel to the original stories was published in 1920 and they introduced Raggedy Ann’s brother, Raggedy Andy, who was dressed in a sailor suit and hat. Powell Craft make a very popular sailor doll today, influenced by the original Raggedy Andy.
Another rag doll that became famous featured in the popular 1974 UK children’s television series ‘Bagpuss’ made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate. Bagpuss is a pink and white striped, furry cat described in the television programme as “an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams”.
Only thirteen episodes of Bagpuss were ever made but through those episodes Bagpuss and friends became widely loved. In recent years Bagpuss has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and cuddly Bagpuss toys are widely sold.
One of the main characters in the television series, aside from the cat Bagpuss, is a rag doll called Madeleine, who told a story in every episode about a new object brought to the shop in which they lived to be repaired.
Other very famous rag dolls include Ragdolly Anna from the children’s stories by Jean Kenward, and Andy Pandy’s Looby Loo. Andy Pandy is another British children’s television series that first aired in 1950. A new series was made in 1970, know about ragdoll and a third series in 2002.
Andy Pandy is a marionette that lives in a picnic basket, and he was later joined by a teddy bear called, Teddy, and a rag doll called Looby Loo, who would appear when Andy and Teddy weren’t around.
Rag dolls are still as popular as ever to this day, and Powell Craft make a whole range in different costumes, including girls and boys, influenced and inspired by characters throughout history.