Monochrome with red dress
Portrait of a 1948 composite doll – by Madame Alexander

There’s a reason why I take a lot of pictures of this doll. She was one of Madame Alexander’s originals, named after the girl in the McGuffey reader which was used in American schools for almost 100 years. She was also one of the most popular faces ever produced, with a sweetness that later dolls never matched … and is completely missing from modern dolls.

She was also my best reconstruction. Because she is made of composition material — basically glue, sawdust, paint, and a lot of careful hand molding — she needed quite a lot of repair. Both her feet were eaten away by moisture. I repaired them well enough to fit into shoes, but not well enough to stand on their own. I repainted much of her face. Her wig is new and I sewed the dress and smock myself. I know it isn’t a huge accomplishment, but I don’t sew, so it was a big deal for me. I also made her hat. She is as close to the original as I could create.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.


  1. When my mom was pregnant with me, in 1945, she did not know if I would be a boy or a girl, so she bought a “ginnie doll” with curly short hair that could be either. I still have that doll and I love it.


    1. Ginnie dolls were the “it” toy for us as kids. We all had bunches of them and clothing. They were inexpensive, so you could go the toy store and buy one for a few dollars … which was pretty big money to us, but compared to other things, not so much. I don’t have as many of them as I would like. They are a very “hot” collector’s item.


    1. Not pristine. That’s not possible, but as close to it as I could manage. These composite dolls are difficult. You have to build the missing pieces, usually feet and hands, out of epoxy putty — not an easy substance with which to work. Hands and feet are always difficult. But she looks amazingly good considering what I had to work with. I’m proud of her 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It must be love because otherwise, it would be pointless. There’s not much value in these composite oldies. They are fragile. No matter what you do, they eventually decay. So you have to love their pretty faces 🙂 It’s the only reason worth having them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It IS a big deal and she looks wonderful, so sweet and alive, palpable. Both images are wonderful, maybe the one with a red dress suits her sweet face better. Oh, how I love this post! Marilyn, compliments for remarkable restoration and photography!


    1. Thanks Paula. It means a lot from you! These old ones are disappearing quickly from the world. It used to be easy to get them online, but so many have just rotted away … She is my favorite.


  3. She’s beautiful, Marilyn. I have the Cissette Madam Alexander doll. Beautiful but not this lovely old material. I know just what you mean but had never known its composition. I think you did a lovely job of restoring her.


    1. I had to look it up because I needed to repair it. It’s fragile. I’m surprised any of the dolls made of it survive. I’ve got maybe a dozen of them, some in pretty good shape, others not so good. If they really begin to rot badly, you have to get rid of them. The rot will spread to other dolls. It’s amazing to me that they were able to do such beautiful molding on such cheesy materials. Until extruded plastic came along at the end of the 1940s, it was the best material they could find.


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