When I was editing today, I remembered that in fourth grade, I wrote an essay about American Girl dolls for school. We were supposed to write an essay about a book, but none of the books that we had to write about interested me, so I just wrote about AG dolls. My teacher didn't mind- in fact, I remember that he got more AG books for the class library because I was always reading the ones the school library had. Anyways, I looked on my Google Drive for the essay, and it was there! So here it is, AGDN readers: my beautiful 10 year old self infodumping about American Girl in essay form.
(Note from 15 year old Sydney- this essay was written in 2015, so all the facts are up to what happened then. I made some mistakes, which I correct at the end of this post. The content is unedited from 2015, except for spelling and grammar errors.)
American Girl dolls are the best. I know all about them. They were made in 1986 by a former teacher named Pleasant Rowland. The original three were Kirsten, a immigrant from Sweden from 1854, Samantha, a wealthy orphan raised by her grandma in 1904 and Molly, a patriotic girl who has to face challenges while her dad is fighting in World War Two in 1944. The dolls were called The American Girls Collection and the books were written by Pleasant’s friends, Valerie Tripp and Janet Shaw. In 1987, their final 3 books were released.
The original dolls had white bodies. When Felicity, a colonial girl in 1774 was released, the bodies were turned to a regular skin color. Felicity was also the first doll without bangs. The Collection got diverse in 1993, when Addy, a slave who escapes and find freedom during the Civil War in 1864, was released. Addy was the first black doll ever released, as well as the first doll to not use the Classic mold, debuting a new mold called the Addy mold.
In 1995, American Girl of Today (now My American Girl) was launched with 20 unique dolls, in which one was the first Asian doll ever released, debuting a new face mold which was dubbed “#4 Mold.” In 1997, the Collection’s first and only Hispanic doll, Josefina,a girl who is coping with the death of her beloved Mama in 1824, debuted. Josefina also got her own face mold. The next year, the first American Girl store, located in Chicago, opened. In Fall 2000, the books got a minor redesign, which came with the launch of Kit Kittredge, the first doll with freckles.
Throughout 2000, girls asked to read about the American Girls of Today. Because of that, American Girl debuted Lindsey, a limited edition doll who always tries to help but always gets in trouble, who was only available for 2001. She was such a poor seller that they tried 2002 with Lindsey instead, but she also had poor sales that year, that they just quit Lindsey in the summer of 2002 and gave the remaining Lindsey dolls to charities. (See the end of the essay for a correction) Also in 2002, American Girl released its first Native American doll, Kaya, Because of a rule in Kaya’s tribe that it was rude to show teeth, American Girl debuted a new face mold for Kaya. Kaya is the only doll to use that face mold. American Girl didn’t do well with Kailey in 2003, a surfer who tries to get her favorite tide pools back, either. In 2004, the first ever American Girl movie, Samantha: An American Girl Holiday, released on DVD and VHS. It also premiered on the now defunct The WB. With the release of the movie, American Girl released a doll of Nellie, Samantha’s best friend. Nellie was marketed as a limited edition doll, but since sales were so high, Nellie became a permanent addition to Samantha’s collection. (Correction at the end)
But when Marisol, a resourceful dancer who lives in a town with no dance school debuted in 2005, American Girl decided to make the limited edition dolls into their own line, Girl of the Year. I think it was because American Girl of Today was renamed Just Like You, and the limited edition dolls weren’t “just like you”. With Jess, a girl who is going to Belize for a six month archeological dig, the line was officially named Girl of the Year in 2006. Jess also debuted a new face mold. Also, in 2006, American Girl made it’s first movie premiere outside of The WB, due to The WB/UPN merger. The movie was Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front. It was premiered on Disney Channel.
In 2007, American Girl debuted the first American Girl historical doll after Molly’s time period, Julie. Julie was from the 1970’s. She was also the first doll to have a best friend doll at the time of the main doll’s release. The best friend doll was Ivy, the first and only Asian American historical character. Also in 2007, American Girl opened two stores in a new “Boutique and Bistro” format, one in Dallas, Texas and one in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2008, American Girl released their first ever theatrical film, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. American Girl also released their first doll with gray eyes* since Molly McIntire, Ruthie. Ruthie was Kit’s best friend. (Correction at the end)
In 2009, the Girl of the Year of that year, Chrissa Maxwell, had a bunch of firsts. One of them was that she had two best friend dolls, Sonali Matthews and Gwen Thompson. Gwen caused controversy in Fall 2009 because she was homeless and wasn’t a fundraising device for the homeless. I disagree, the reporters who made a fuss probably never read Chrissa’s books or watched Chrissa’s movie! Gwen won the Most Dubious Toy of 2009. Chrissa was also the first Girl of the Year to have a movie, Chrissa Stands Strong. It starred singer Sammi Hanratty and former actress Adair Tishler. It is no longer available on DVD directly from americangirl.com or Apple TV as of December 2014. However, it is still available from secondary retailers such as Amazon. Also, a number of people uploaded the movie on popular video sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, so it’s available online. The movie was the first American Girl movie to premiere on a premium network (HBO). In 2010, Just Like You was renamed My American Girl. American Girl also launched a online world called Innerstar University, in which with a parent’s permission, a girl could enter two special codes that came with a My American Girl doll and bring the doll to life online.
2011 was a big year for American Girl. First, American Girl released it’s first ever Hawaiian doll, Kanani. Kanani turned out to be the fastest selling Girl of the Year yet! Also, 2011 was American Girl’s 25th anniversary. They celebrated with special edition mini dolls of all 12 Historical Characters, starting with Samantha in January. Also, there were special Blu-ray combo packs of the four American Girl Historical movies, Samantha: An American Girl Holiday, Felicity: An American Girl Adventure, Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front and Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.
The biggest celebration was an American Girl themed cruise which sold out within three days. At a special event on the cruise ship, American Girl announced the name of the 2012 Girl of the Year, McKenna Brooks. American Girl also announced that everyone on the ship would get McKenna delivered to their home for free on January 1st. The event was recorded by Lisa Yee, the author of the Kanani books and Good Luck, Ivy, and posted on Lisa’s YouTube channel. Another big celebration was the first ever pair of best friends that shared their Central Series, Cecile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner.
In 2012, McKenna released. She was the first Girl of the Year doll who got a major injury (in this case, McKenna breaking her leg after doing a back handspring.) and also was the first doll with a movie that did not get any best friend dolls. Nethier Toulane (her Asian best friend who is also really competitive), Josie (her friend and tutor who is in a wheelchair) or Sierra (another gymnastics teammate who is new to Shooting Stars Gymnastics) were released as dolls. Her movie was released on NBC (the first time an American Girl movie was premiered on a local network) preceeding the London 2012 Olympics. The premiere was also the first time an American Girl movie was shown preceeding a television program which relates to the main doll’s interests. She broke Kanani’s record of the fastest selling Girl of the Year. That same year, American Girl debuted Caroline Abbot, the first historical doll since Rebecca to not have a best friend doll.
In 2013, American Girl didn’t do anything interesting but they announced that Molly and Emily’s collection was archiving. Emily sold out on an unknown date in December, and Molly and Emily officially archived on January 1, 2014. Also, Saige Copeland, the Girl of the Year for that year, was the first Girl of the Year to have her birth date explicitly mentioned. Saige’s birthday is October 8, 2003.
2014 was a big year for American Girl. First, the Girl of the Year for that year, Isabelle, was the first doll and probally only doll to come with hair extensions. Isabelle was also the first Girl of the Year to have earrings as an add-on at the time of purchase, and also was the first Girl of the Year to have a $120 price in contrast to the $110 price in January 2014. In Feburary, American Girl announced that Samantha would come back in Fall 2014. In May, American Girl announced that Cecile, Marie-Grace and the two remaining Best Friend dolls, Ruthie and Ivy would be archived, and the long rumors of BeForever were confirmed. The decision to move the dolls into the Archives sparked controversy because they were retiring diverse dolls. A petition was made to make a replacement Asian doll. BeForever launched on August 28, 2014 which included the official archiving of the Best Friends line, Samantha’s return, the change of all the BeForever doll’s (with the exception of Kaya, probably because they wanted Kaya to stay true to her culture and Caroline, probably because Caroline was fairly new) meet outfits, and the release of new things. In December 2014, American Girl launched a program that for every doll purchased online, by mail order, at an American Girl store or by phone order from Thanksgiving weekend to December 18, 2014, American Girl would donate an American Girl doll to the Children’s Hospital Association. At the end, American Girl donated 250,000 Isabelle dolls to the Children’s Hospital Association. Nothing happened in 2015 yet, but I’m sure something big will happen! Bye!
Correction 1- I didn't know this when I wrote the essay, but Lindsey released in September 2001 and retired on December 31, 2002. The remaining Lindsey dolls did go to charity, though.
Correction 2- I don't know where this rumor originated, but I have Nellie's debut catalog and she was never marketed as a limited edition doll.
Correction 3- There were numerous Truly Mes with gray eyes.