Tuesday, April 27, 2010
A Beloved Doll
I received my beloved Queen Elizabeth II “Alexanderkins” doll for my seventh birthday. She was purchased by my parents from a stationers’ store in the small Indiana town of my childhood. From a very young age, I had been an ardent fan of the British royal family, collecting every photo and article I could find from local newspapers and national magazines and pasting them in scrapbooks. How thrilled I was to have this wonderful little eight-inch-tall Queen E!
The creator of this doll, Madame Alexander, was born Bertha (later changed to Beatrice) Alexander in 1895, the daughter of Russian immigrants to the United States. Bertha grew up living in an apartment over her father's doll hospital, the first one in the United States, located on Grand Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As a child she often played with the mainly German- and French-made dolls left for her father’s attention.
After her marriage, Madame Beatrice Alexander Behrman founded The Alexander Doll Company in 1923. Working out of her kitchen with only $1600 worth of operating capital, she adopted the title of 'Madame' and started a cottage industry business which eventually moved to a studio in downtown Manhattan. There, Madame Alexander conceived the ideas for new dolls, assisted in sewing the dolls and their costumes, and developed shop accounts.
Madame Alexander initiated a series of “firsts” in the doll industry. She created composition dolls with painted features and sleep eyes, using distinctive face molds; brought feature baby dolls to market; and pioneered the use of hard plastic as a new medium. She also created the first doll based on a licensed character (Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind), which led to the widespread production of dolls based on characters from popular books (i.e. Little Women and Alice in Wonderland) and motion pictures; and was also the first to create dolls modeled after famous people or celebrities, such as Queen Elizabeth II, the Dionne quintuplets, etc. In 1955, Madame Alexander's company produced the first fashion doll with an adult figure (Cissy) -- a full four years before the appearance of the "Barbie" doll.
Madame Alexander believed that dolls should engage the imagination and contribute to a child's happiness and understanding of the world. These fine quality and beautifully crafted dolls continue to be favorites for children and doll collectors throughout the world. Beatrice Alexander Behrman, “Madame Alexander”, died in 1990 at the age of 95.