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2402 W Rd
Bennington, VT, 05201
United States

802-447-7072

A behind-the-scenes look at the R. John Wright Dolls Design Studio in Bennington, Vermont. Written by R. John Wright, hear in his own words how the creative design process unfolds and how the world-renowned RJW dolls and animal characters are readied for production. 

News & Updates

A behind-the-scenes look at the R. John Wright Dolls Design Studio in Bennington, Vermont. Written by R. John Wright, hear in his own words how the creative design process unfolds and how the world-renowned RJW dolls and animal characters are readied for production. 

Doll History - Getting the Facts Straight by R. John Wright

John Wright

I wanted to talk about the cover doll on the latest issue of Doll News. This is one of those Marazzi dolls made in Italy in the 1920s. First, it looks like a direct lift from the Lenci 109 mold. And the painting etc. is all copying Lenci. It must have really irked the Scavini's to see this kind of thing happening. I have mixed feelings about 'celebrating' the work of such blatant copiers in this way. If the article pointed this out more it could be okay but it really doesn't. And on top of that the doll they chose to feature on the front cover is a pretty bad example! Do you see the black around the lips? That is caused by moisture from poor storage. When we x-rayed the old Lencis in the late 70s all the painting showed and we were told that indicated the lead content of the paint.

Below are examples from the Lenci 109 Series.

This same 'copying' thing came up in the article about the 'Tiny Betty' dolls from Alexander. Pat Burns points out the obvious similarities with Nancy Abbott's Storybook Doll line but skirts the issue of which came first. Instead of finding out (a relatively easy thing to do) she claims both doll lines happened simultaneously - which is highly unlikely. The reality is that Madame A. was a shark—always on the lookout to capitalize on anything.

She did the same thing with the Ginny doll and she moved FAST! The earliest Ginnys came out one year and the very next Toy Fair Alexander introduced their line of 8-inch 'Alexanderkins' which were a virtual copy of Ginny. To her credit they were better than Ginny in many ways but they were still an obvious knock-off.

When she lost out on getting the Shirley Temple license (a huge disappointment) she came out with her own 'Little Colonel' doll with dimples anyway—without calling it Shirley Temple.

I think as a doll maker and history aficionado I am especially sensitive to giving credit where credit is due—and conversely, pointing out when ideas are stolen. Everything comes from something, of course, but there is a difference between being 'inspired' by something and copying a thing or an idea and calling it your own. Unfortunately, the winds of history sometimes help to cover the tracks of thieves.