The other day my husband went to the local library and returned with a book he’d found that he thought I would like. It was “20th Century Paper Dolls Identification & Values” and while it is primarily a price guide it is interesting because it lists many paper doll manufacturers and has a lot of illustrations.
I didn’t find many that I recognised but then I came to the pages on the Milton Bradley company. Now that’s a name that I remember well from my childhood although more for games than for paper dolls. I did know that the company made paper dolls though. In fact I have one, the 1962 version of Magic Mary Jane.
I had never read the story of how these dolls came to be produced before briefly it goes like this.
The concept for this type of doll was invented by an engineer in Ohio for his daughters. He devised a way of attaching a magnet to the doll and pieces of metal to the clothing so that they would cling to the doll without the need for paper tags. He obtained a patent for his idea in 1943 but after failing to find a manufacturer he sold it to a Mrs Wright of Cleveland who took the idea to the Milton Bradley Company. The story goes that the executive that she spoke to was not interested but Mrs Wright was not easily put off. She found her way to the office of Mr Shea the President of the company and waylaid him. She must have been a persuasive woman because Mr Shea liked the idea and Mrs Wright left with a contract. The first doll, “Magic Mary” was produced in 1946 and more followed at regular intervals from then until the 1970s.
You can read more about the history of the Milton Bradley Company in the books “It’s All In The Game” by James J Shea and “The Milton Bradley Story” by James J Shea Jr.
The reason that I came to have Magic Mary Jane is because my sister had her as a child. I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere that we loved playing with paper dolls as children. My sister was only three years old in 1962 when this version of Magic Mary Jane came out so I know that it was being sold overseas much later than that. I can’t remember now whether it was bought for her when we still lived in England or when we first came to Australia. In any case it was in the mid 1960s. The original set disappeared years ago, given to younger cousins or to charity but my sister found one on eBay or at a toy fair a few years ago and bought it. Later on she found a set that was in better condition and bought it. She gave the first one she bought to me.
Here are some photos of Magic Mary Jane and her clothing.
I had fun scanning the pictures for this post and chose the outfits that I liked best for Mary Jane to wear. I love that little Scottie dog too!