â€œThough he had a hunch, Johnny Gruelle didn't know what to expect or whether the buying public would really take to hand-crafted rag dolls,â€ observes Patricia Hall.
â€œWorld War I was in the forefront; people were distracted, focusing on other things. You might expect that dolls would have been the last thing on their minds,â€ Hall points out.
As it turned out, however, Raggedy Ann, her brother Raggedy Andy, and the storybooks that the P. F. Volland Company introduced beginning in 1918, would be perfect diversions for a war weary public. The dolls and books went on to become perennial best sellers.
Hall's books are illustrated treasure troves of information about the Raggedys, and tell a larger story than just the history of the dolls that escorted their creator to fame. They reveal the story of Johnny Gruelle, the man behind the mop-topped siblings.
Says Hall, â€œJohnny Gruelle was already a well-known illustrator, cartoonist, and playthings designer when the Raggedys were introduced. But, the dolls and books quickly became an inextricable part of his life and livelihood. By the time he died, in 1938, Gruelle's identity had become defined by his most popular commodities. Millions knew him only as â€˜The Raggedy Ann Man.’â€
Patricia Hall's Johnny Gruelle collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world, encompassing books, dolls, merchandise, original artwork, correspondence, and photographs. In addition to Raggedy Ann and More: Johnny Gruelle's Dolls and Merchandise, Hall also is the author of Johnny Gruelle, Creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy and Raggedy Ann and Andy Postcard Book, both published by Pelican.