During the bleak years of the Great Depression, the lovable Shirley Temple became a symbol of happiness and hope for audiences around the world. In 1934, 20th Century Fox film songwriter Jay Gorney was taken with the dimpled, flaxen-haired star of a short film that preceded the feature at a local Los Angeles theater. As he was leaving, Gorney was surprised to recognize Temple and her family at the same theater, and soon the young actress was signing her first contract with Fox. By the end of the year, Temple would be featured in seven films, and would become the top-grossing box office star in the world.

Meanwhile, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company approached the Temple family with its Shirley Temple doll concept, and sculptor Bernard Lipfert was tasked to create its unique mold. After seeing more than 20 variations, both the Temple family and Ideal’s staff were satisfied, and the first composition Shirley Temple doll was created.

The earliest prototype was made from composition with three different wig options—red, blond, and brunette. A more generic version of the doll was also marketed without using Temple’s last name. In October of 1934, Ideal applied for a patent, and the Shirley Temple doll was officially announced in an issue of the retail industry magazine “Playthings.”

The updated design came in four sizes, with hazel eyes and curly, strawberry-blonde hair. The product’s only marking read “COP IDEAL N&T Co.” which was imprinted on the back of the doll’s head. Shirley Temple dolls came complete with a polka-dotted dress like the one she wore in “Stand Up and Cheer,” along with an official tag and celluloid button.

At $3.00 each, even the smallest Shirley Temple dolls weren’t cheap. Yet the toys were a hit, and soon Ideal commissioned designer Mollye Goldman to create a variety of outfits based on Temple’s film roles. Shirley Temple fans soon had an assortment of organdy dresses to choose from, many in cute sailor striped or polka-dotted styles.

These mini-versions of the child star quickly became Ideal’s best-selling product, and were made in nine different sizes. Other companies created knockoffs and found creative ways to skirt copyright law. Beginning with its “Little Colonel” doll, Madame Alexander purchased the rights to the books on which Temple’s films were based and marketed their dolls using these titles.

Over the years, Ideal modified its product, slimming the face mold, altering her coloration, and embossing the Shirley Temple name on both its body and head. Extensive lines of c...

After a nearly 20-year hiatus, the company released a slightly more grown-up Shirley Temple doll made from vinyl in 1957. Temple became closely involved with the production and promotion of Ideal’s new series, and two years later helped launch its first “Shirley Temple Playpal” doll, which was a full three feet in height.

In 1960, the first Shirley Temple Collectors Club was established. From the '60s through the '80s, new Shirley Temple dolls were regularly distributed by companies like Montgomery Ward and the Danbury Mint, aimed primarily at nostalgic adult collectors.

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Recent News: Shirley Temple Dolls

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LETTER: 'Tis the season to be jolly?
South Jersey Local News, December 18th

That all boys and girls should not ask Santa for GI Joe's and Barbie dolls. They should ask for Easy Bake Ovens. I sure am glad those miserable scrooges weren't around when I asked Santa for my Shirley Temple doll back in the good old days. I have some ...Read more

FLOWERS: Plenty of classics on Christmas lists
Lufkin Daily News, December 16th

1910s: Teddy Bear 1920s: YoYo, Tinker Toys, Raggedy Ann 1930s-40s: Shirley Temple Doll, Red Ryder BB Gun, Slinky, Lego's, View Master 1950s: Hula Hoop, Mr. Potato Head, Barbie 1960s: Etch A Sketch, GI Joe, Easy Bake Oven, Rock 'em Sock 'em ...Read more

Open House at museum a huge success
Greensburg Daily News, December 16th

One of the most popular displays downstairs was by Ginny Garvey who brought dolls and the books written about them. Examples included Charlie McCarthy and a book about him, Shirley Temple with one of the books about her, The Wizard of Oz doll and ...Read more

Yuletides past
Cleburne Times-Review, December 15th

Santa finally brought me a bike, that was probably my happiest Christmas.” For Lanetta Pauly that special gift was a Shirley Temple doll. “I'd always wanted one,” Pauly said. “By the time I got one I was 12, a big kid. Probably too old for dolls...Read more

DYKN? A look at Christmas past
The Newark Advocate, December 13th

Girls asked for an Anne Shirley/Shirley Temple doll or a doll house. My brother, five years older, had a Flexible Flyer sled and I got his shorter hand-me-down sled. Our favorite place to slide was Dr. Mitchell's front yard. He had the best sledding...Read more

Old toys still bring new joy to Christmas
The Daily Standard, December 10th

CELINA - Stories of Shirley Temple posters and Roy Rogers action figures were told Sunday afternoon at the Richardson-Bretz Building as people remembered the toys of their childhood. With Christmas almost here, the Mercer ... Some of the toys the...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: Shirley Temple dolls still enchant collectors
Press of Atlantic City, December 5th

Ideal's original Shirley Temple doll, introduced in 1934, was a composition model of the famous child movie star. Enhanced with a mohair wig, it enjoyed international popularity until World War II. Later dolls such as yours were reissues with a vinyl...Read more

Barbie meets Shirley Temple at Florence doll shop
SCNow, August 30th

Twelve members make up the Pee Dee Doll Club, and with this year being the pearl anniversary, members displayed their favorite dolls, all draped in pearls. A tribute was also made to Shirley Temple, who died earlier in the year. Attendees at the doll...Read more