DEER LODGE — A collection of more than 6,000 Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls and memorabilia is on display at the Old Prison museum complex in Deer Lodge.
A grand opening starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 22, and will feature Kathy Jackson, the Seattle woman who donated the expansive collection to the museum. Also on hand will be “live” Raggedy Ann and Andy.
Admission is free in conjunction with Museum Appreciation Day.
The collection boasts just about everything Raggedy Ann and Andy — dolls of all sizes, story books, plaques, toys, cups, plates, nightgowns and quilts, wrapping paper, Christmas decorations and thousands of other pieces. It is believed to be one of the largest collections of this type.
Jackson received her first Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls from her husband in 1978 when she had surgery. From then on, the “Redheads” became her passion, as the collection grew and spread throughout their home, filling every crook and cranny.
When she reached 70, Jackson realized her family was unable to care for her collection and began looking for a permanent home for them. Although she had offers to sell selected items, she wanted her “kids” to remain together, according to the museum.
She donated the collection to the Deer Lodge museum after visiting several others.
“We are astounded by the quality and size of the collection,” said curator John O’Donnell.
Various stories surround the beginning of Raggedy Ann and Andy.
One says Illinois-born political cartoonist Johnny Gruelle was working in his art studio when his young daughter, Marcella Delight, burst in with an old rag doll she found in the attic. He studied it for a bit then expertly painted on a triangular nose, a smile and replaced a missing button eye. It is said he selected the name from two of his favorite poems “The Raggedy Man” and “Little Orphan Annie,” asking his daughter, “What if we call your doll Raggedy Ann?”
When Marcella was 13 she became ill from an infected vaccination. Gruelle sat at her bedside telling his dying daughter stories about the imaginary adventures of a spunky rag doll with attributes of kindness and trustworthiness. After her death, Gruelle wrote down the bedside stories, illustrating them with pictures of a little doll with red yarn hair, shoe-button eyes and a triangle nose.
He patented the doll in September 1912 and his family handmade Raggedy Ann dolls, each said to have a little candy heart sewn in its chest with the words “I Love You.”
The first “Raggedy Ann Stories” were published in 1918. Ann’s brother, Andy, dressed in a sailor suit and hat, was introduced in Gruelle’s second book, “Raggedy Andy Stories” in 1920. The two little characters became a popular sensation as 45 books of stories were published and toymakers marketed the dolls to generations of children.