The Magic of Madame Alexander Dolls

Out of a Harlem factory come exquisite collectibles that, after 74 years, still bring joy to many children—and adults

As a child Beatrice Alexander Behrman watched as brokenhearted girls brought their damaged dolls to her father's doll hospital for repair. She vowed then to one day make an unbreakable doll. In 1923, with $1,600 and a kitchen table shop, that childish promise spawned the business that would one day make Alexander famous and change the face of American doll making.

Today, despite the changing landscape of the doll industry and the workforce, the Alexander Doll Company remains the largest private, for-profit employer in Harlem. Now owned by a group of investors, the company struggles to blend modern production techniques with the skilled craftsmanship Madame Alexander dolls are known for.

 From character-inspired dolls like the "Scarlett" (O'Hara) doll and the March sisters dolls (from Little Women), to original works like the high-heeled fashion doll, "Cissy," Madame Alexander dolls in their signature blue boxes continue to capture the imagination of young girls and adult collectors alike. One of four daughters of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Alexander went on to become a 1960s icon, drawing crowds of people in department stores lined up with their dolls to be autographed. Early in her career Madame Alexander stated that she "wanted to create dolls with souls."

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