Nestled in a warehouse building in the Manhattanville section of Harlem is the Madame Alexander factory and showroom, a doll-lovers paradise and historic gem. Lily and I got a chance to visit today and it was an experience worth sharing.
In 1923, Madame Beatrice Alexander Behrman founded the Alexander Doll Company and began to fulfill her dream of creating beautifully handcrafted play dolls for children. Madame Alexander was the first company to introduce dolls based on licensed characters, starting with Gone With the Wind and continuing through the Disney Princesses, Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy. They also created the first dolls with “sleep eyes” that open and close and the first dolls made of plastic.
Lily and I began our day with a “behind the scenes” tour of the doll-making process. We visited with a doll designer and got a firsthand glimpse of the design-making process. Next, we got to see some of the tailors at work making the prototype dolls that are eventually sent to factories for mass production. We soon moved into the “doll hospital”, an area where dolls are sent to be mended. These areas were not doctored up for a tour-this was a true working factory and the mess of the creative process was there to prove it!
After the tour, we were brought the “Madame Alexander Heritage Gallery”, a permanent showcase which includes artifacts and early examples of the dolls. Here is where I came across the “Spain” doll-part of an International collection that was created in the early ’80’s that took my breath away. You see, I had this doll as a child and absolutely cherished it. I had no idea she was Madame Alexander doll, but seeing her again brought back so many memories!
The next part of the day was Lily’s favorite-she got to create her own doll. She was able to choose from a selection of 18” dolls and pick out the doll’s dress, shoes, and accessories. Not surprisingly, Lily chose the pink tutu!
The Madame Alexander factory also has a showroom full of current dolls, including the newborn baby Lee Middleton dolls, Fancy Nancy, Eloise, Olivia, Angelina Ballerina, and Pinkalicious. There is also a beautifully decorated party room for birthday parties. Lily and I were treated to a selection of fruit and finger sandwiches that she really enjoyed.
The Alexander Doll company offers customizable packages for birthday parties, tea parties, create-a-doll workshops and other celebrations. For more information and pricing, click here.