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Pleasant Company was founded in 1986 by Pleasant Rowland, a former educator, newscaster, and author of children's books and educational materials. According to corporate documents, the company manufactures dolls intended "to enrich the lives of American girls by fostering pride in the traditions of growing up female in America and celebrating the lifestyle of girls today." The company enjoyed huge successes, selling millions of dolls and ancillary products in its first years of operation. The company's success attracted the interest of Mattel, Inc., and in 1998, Mattel purchased the Pleasant Company for $700 million. In spite of Mattel ownership, the Wisconsin-based company operates as an independent subsidiary of the toy conglomorate. The historical dolls each represent an era of America's past. Six books of a set for each doll provide an accurate historical narrative of the time period. Josefina lived in New Mexico in 1824; Kriste, a Swedish immigrant, settles in Minnesota in 1854; Addy escapes from slavery during the Civil War; Kit lives through the Great Depression of the 1930s; and Molly awaits her father's return from military service during World War II. (The museum had acquired Samantha, a doll from the 1890s, some years ago.) For many girls growing up today, these dolls and their books are their first introduction into various aspects of America's past. Rowland's formula for combining doll play with history lessons is, in her words, like putting "vitamins in the chocolate cake." Some critics note that the "history" presented in the books is unrealistically upbeat and that the characters are more independent and have more opportunities to pursue than is historically accurate. Other critics complain that dolls selling for about $100 each with $20 dresses are far too expensive for all but the comfortable middle class. That the company had sold more than 60 million books (more copies sold than Harry Potter books) by 2001 suggests Rowland hit on a marketing strategy that works. The American Girl Today dolls offer such a variety of features--hair color, hair texture, eye color, complexion color--each young girl can own a doll that looks just like herself. In another example of combining vitamins and cake, each doll comes with a journal, encouraging young girls to write a record of their dolls' and their own activities.

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  • Title: Doll:American Girl Today
  • Creator: American Girl
  • Date Created: 2003
  • Location: Middleton, WI
  • Subject Keywords: identity, fantasy, creativity, ethnicity, American Girl
  • Type: Dolls from the Nineties to Now
  • Medium: vinyl, fabric, synthetic hair, paper, cardboard
  • Object ID: 103.2.18

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