Effanbee’s Patsys in Wonderland

Effanbee’s Patsys in Wonderland

Mertz, Ursula R



he children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by British author and mathematician Lewis Carroll (1832-98) has been a perennial favorite with children of all ages all over the world. Over the years, many Alice in Wonderland dolls have been produced by various companies. The Alexander Doll Company, for example, offered its version of Alice almost continuously, successively made of cloth, composition and, finally, hard plastic and vinyl. In 1933, the Effanbee Company of New York followed suit and offered not Alice, but Patsys in Wonderland!

In the same year, 1933, Paramount released its full-length feature film Alice in Wonderland. On reading the cast of actors, one would not only wish for a Patsy in Wonderland doll, but also to be able to see this old film. Alice was played by Charlotte Henry, W.C. Fields played Humpty Dumpty and Gary Cooper played the White Knight. Cary Grant was cast as Mock Turtle.

Obviously, the Patsys in Wonderland offering by Effanbee was meant to be a tie-in with the Paramount film. The trade journal Playthings made certain that the wholesale trade was aware of the tie-in. An editorial in the December 1933 issue was illustrated with a photo showing a young girl dressed as Alice reading an Alice in Wonderland storybook to a Patsy in Wonderland doll sitting in her lap. This photograph was taken at Chicago’s well-known Marshall Field’s department store, which staged this promotion.

Certainly this was not the first time or the last time that Patsys were used to represent various characters. In 1932, members of the Patsy family were used to represent George and Martha Washington on the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. In 1936, Patsys would be called on again to represent characters of the Broadway play White Horse Inn.

The Patsy Joan illustrated with this column was acquired minus her apron, which initially cast doubt on the originality of her dress. It did have a sewn-in Effanbee cloth tag, but fit rather loosely and was longer than the typical styles. The dress alone gave no clue as to a specific identity, either. However, Pat Schoonmaker’s Patsy Doll Family Encyclopedia shows a molded-hair Patsy Joan in an identical costume, identifying her as a Patsy in Wonderland. When a copy of the missing white apron was put on the former doll, the fit of the dress matched that of the one in the book.

It would be nice to know how many members of the Patsy family Effanbee dressed in the Wonderland costumes. Was only the yellow cotton print used? Might other collectors have had similar doubts as to originality of costume when they found a Patsy family member in a long, loose-fitting cotton print dress without the apron, and not recognized her as a Patsy in Wonderland? It is hoped that collectors will check their Patsy dolls and their wardrobes, and share their findings if they discover heretofore unrecognized Patsys in Wonderland. Please write via Doll Reader.

Copyright Cowles Enthusiast Media Feb 2002

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