• Brigette Cook Jones

Raggedy Ann and Little Orphan Annie


Indianapolis artist and illustrator, Johnny Gruelle, would be sitting at his desk at home working. His young daughter Marcella came into the room with a rag doll that she had found after rummaging through the attic. Due to the age and sun exposure - the doll had lost her face, so Johnny dutifully, used his inks to create a new face for the doll. The next thing would be to come up with a name for the doll. Retrieving a book of James Whitcomb Riley's poetry (Riley had been a personal friend to Gruelle), Johnny would select two of his favorite poems, "The Raggedy Man," and "Little Orphant Annie" - and "Raggedy Ann" would be born. Marcella played with the doll for quite some time. Gruelle believe that other children would enjoy the doll, and so he designed a standard image for the doll and had it patented on September 7, 1915.

Unfortunately, Marcella would not live to see the success of Raggedy Ann. She would pass away on November 8, 1915 from an infection after a vaccination. Marcella was only 13.

The above photo is a picture of Marcella and her mother, Mrytle Gruelle.

Johnny Gruelle was devastated. In order to deal with his grief, Johnny threw himself into work - writing and illustrating. He would create a storybook detailing the adventures of Raggedy Ann - with her human counterpart - - -Marcella.

The preface and dedication in the book reads:

As I write this, I have before me on my desk, propped up against the telephone, an old rag doll. Dear old Raggedy Ann!

The same Raggedy Ann with which my mother played when a child.

There she sits, a trifle loppy and loose-jointed, looking me squarely in the face in a straightforward, honest manner, a twinkle where her shoe-button eyes reflect the electric light.

Evidently Raggedy has been to a "tea party" today, for her face is covered with chocolate.

She smiles happily and continuously.

True, she has been nibbled by mice, who have made nests out of the soft cotton with which she has been stuffed, but Raggedy smiled just as broadly when the mice nibbled at her, for her smile is painted on.

What adventures you must have had, Raggedy!

What joy and happiness you have brought into this world!

And no matter what treatment you have received, how patient you have been!

What lessons of kindness and fortitude you might teach could you but talk; you with your wisdom of fifty-nine years. No wonder Rag Dolls are the best beloved! You are so kindly, so patient, so lovable.

The more you become torn, tattered and loose-jointed, Rag Dolls, the more you are loved by children.

Who knows but that Fairyland is filled with old, lovable Rag Dolls—soft, loppy Rag Dolls who ride through all the wonders of Fairyland in the crook of dimpled arms, snuggling close to childish breasts within which beat hearts filled with eternal sunshine.

So, to the millions of children and grown-ups who have loved a Rag Doll, I dedicate these stories of Raggedy Ann.

Johnny Gruelle.

"Raggedy Ann Stories" would premiere in 1918 - just three years after the death of his daughter Marcella. This would mark the beginning of many treasured Raggedy Ann books, and dolls which would become a treasured icon for years to come.

Gruelle would honor another dearly departed individual who passed away just a mere handfull of months after his daughter Marcella. James Whitcomb Riley, who wrote both of the poems that gave Raggedy Ann her name, would pass away on July 22, 1916. To honor Riley, Gruelle would create "The LIttle Orphant Annie Story Book." Based upon Riley's poem, "Where is Mary Alice Smith" and including elements of "Little Orphant Annie" - Gruelle would write the introductory story about Annie's arrival at the Carl and Bessie's Home, and then he would create ten original stories that she would share with the children. The "Orphant Annie Story Book" would premiere in 1921, and would include some very dear images of Little Orphant Annie....


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