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Vol 1, Issue 1                               February 2002


THE SARALEE DOLL by Ideal Dolls 1951-1953
by Debbie Garrett

Index ||| Welcome ||| About the Editors ||| Collecting News ||| Profile of a Collector ||| Profile of an Artist ||| Doll in the Spotlight! ||| Doll Care Basics ||| Resources ||| FAQ ||| Closing Words

Pictures of author's original Saralee Doll by Ideal, 1951-1953.

 Leontyne Price (famous Black operator singer) holds a Saralee Doll.
Click the thumbnails below, then click your back browser to return to this page.

As pictured above, the Sears 1952 Christmas Book offered for sale the Saralee 'colored' doll. The doll had a retail price of $6.89, reduced to $5.99. That price pales in comparison to the price that the original Saralee doll commands today.

Above: Marketing photograph of the Saralee doll featuring a little Black girl cuddling the doll while a little White girl looks on. Prominent figures that aided the doll's production are pictured in the above insert, from left to right: Sara Lee Creech, Maxeda von Hess, David Rosenstein, and Kathi Norris [as they appeared] on the Kathi Norris show on the Dumont Network, October 31, 1951. (Picture courtesy of J. Izen)

Click the two pictures above (courtesy of J. Izen) to view the prototypes of Saralee's siblings.

In 1951, when the Saralee "colored" or "Negro" doll hit the market, this historical doll, created by Sara Lee Creech, would be the first play doll of its kind. It was designed specifically to be a "quality doll" with true-to-life Black features. Not only does the Saralee doll possess a unique history of what sparked its creation, but its marketing campaign is also quite interesting. 

According to the book, Florida Pathfinders, after witnessing two little Black girls playing with white dolls outside of a Florida post office as they waited for their mother, Sara Lee Creech was forced to wonder why these girls and others like them did not have quality dolls in their likeness. "In 1949, she launched a campaign to create what her friend, Zora Neale Hurston described as an 'anthropologically correct' doll." 

Ms. Creech, initially conducted a one-woman mission to create the Saralee doll. Later, with the help of several prominent community leaders from the local and national level (Eleanor Roosevelt and Ralph Bunche, just to name a few), her mission was set in motion. Ms. Creech was also graciously assisted by Eleanor Roosevelt's speech coach, Maxeda von Hess, who was able to persuade Shelia Burlingame, a sculptor, to assist in the Saralee 'colored'/Negro doll-creation project. 

After the creation of the Saralee doll, the Ideal doll company went on to create several different head molds intended for dolls that would represent Saralee's big brother, big sister, and little brother. Unfortunately, these dolls were never produced. This author wonders what happened to those ethnically-correct head molds and is certain that they would be priceless today! (See the last two thumbnails below, left.)

In the early 1990s, this author's Black-doll interests reverted from modern artist dolls to vintage. Thumbing through the pages of either Black Dolls, an Identification and Value Guide, book 1 or Collector's Guide to Ideal Dolls, book 1, this author discovered the existence of the Saralee "Negro" doll. After this discovery, an immediate mission was launched to obtain one of these dolls for the author's personal collection. It would take a few years to find one, but eventually the mission was accomplished. (See this article's first picture, above.)  



Pictured left: The little doll with a proud history has been reproduced by the Ashton-Drake Galleries of Niles, Illinois. 

The new, 17-inch Saralee has been reproduced in porcelain from sculptor Sheila Burlingame's original mold. 

Just like the original doll, Saralee's adorable face was specially sculpted to look like a real African-American baby with brown eyes, an open/closed mouth, and molded, painted black hair. 

The reproduction Saralee is wearing a replica of her original, yellow-ribbon-trimmed, white organdy dress with matching bonnet and panties. Little white lace-up shoes and white socks accent her outfit. 

The reproduction Saralee doll retails for $99.99. Description and reproduction picture courtesy of Davis Enterprizes (