American Girls are a collection of dolls originally produced by the Pleasant Company that encourages children to read and learn about history while playing. In the historical line of characters, each girl lives in a different time period and has a book series along with a collection of clothing and accessories to inspire interest in their era and understand what their life would have been like. As American Girl dolls became more popular they added a Just Like You line of dolls where you could pick a doll that resembled you and write your own stories in the blank books that were provided. Over the years as American Girl has grown in popularity they have expanded not only their doll lines but also branched out into physical stores and other mediums such as movies, craft books, cooking books, and more.
We were first introduced to American Girl dolls when were younger and our cousin shared her catalogue with us. At the time only Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly were in the line and I became immediately obsessed with Molly. I have very fond memories of reading all her books from the library, learning every tidbit of information about her, and waiting for the day when I could get her. I received her for Christmas from my grandparents along with a matching Christmas dress and I couldn't have been more excited and happy to have her. My sister got Samantha the following Christmas and it was always so much fun opening presents and seeing one of those maroon boxes that you just knew held something special from one of their collections inside.
In addition to Molly, I also own Felicity (bought after saving up my own money), and Kimberly (a Just Like You doll as a gift from our grandparents), and Jen owns Samantha, Kirsten (bought herself), and Emily (Christmas gift). We spent many hours over the years playing together with these dolls. In addition to the American Girls, we also always included our dolls Sophie (TCA Group Inc doll) and Katelyn (a renamed Always Sister Mallory) in the games. Since we always played with them and they still sit on our shelves beside the American Girls we can't separate them from the official AG dolls. Our games usually consisted of the girls going to school and they always wore a mish mash of historical and modern clothing. When being displayed I used to keep my Molly and Felicity in their own time appropriate clothes, but I usually don't pay too much attention to that anymore and just dress everyone in modern clothes.
There was just something so special about these dolls in the early years of the company. It was always exciting when a new catalogue would arrive in the mail, and we would look through it with our friends and pick out all the things that we liked, although we would never be able to get them all. The accessories were always amazingly high quality, from the materials they were made with to the attention to detail that went into them. I especially loved Kirsten's fishing set that our cousin owned, Molly's camping set, and Molly's schoolbag with working buckles and teeny pencils, pencil case, and binder. It was also special when our parents got involved - our mom made a bunch of clothing for the girls using the patterns sold by AG, and our dad made a table and chairs for our dolls and a replica of Kirsten's chest and bed for our cousin.
In addition to the dolls, we also enjoyed a lot of other things in the American Girl world. We had paper doll sets, a couple craft books, the American Girls Premiere computer game (where we made some terrible and hilarious plays), and a subscription to the American Girl magazine for a little while. We even had a couple of the play sets and used the Felicity script to put on the Tea for Felicity play with two of our friends that we performed for our neighbors. We spent many weeks with our friends picking parts, memorizing lines, practicing, and choreographing a (admittedly not so great) dance to open and close the show with. Our mom made our costumes and we were able to reuse them for Halloween that year. I have many, many fond memories of spending time with these dolls and this brand.
I still actively follow the American Girl line but don't really collect anything from the company anymore, although we still pick up things for the girls from time to time from other places. I feel that the uniqueness of the brand has been lost over the years and I'm really not sure when or where that happened. In addition to not feeling special anymore, I also feel that the quality of the products has really declined from when first started collecting. We've been to two of the AG stores and really didn't feel any excitement at all. We still love the dolls that we have and will always have those wonderful memories from when were kids, but it's a shame that the AG company can't inspire that kind of sentiment for us anymore. I think it's unfortunate that the focus has been shifting away from the historical line, and how even what remains of that isn't true to itself anymore (such as Samantha's all pink re-release outfits or Elizabeth being released with blonde hair and a pink dress). In addition to the huge number of dolls and characters that make the line seem somewhat scattered, there is also a distinct decline in quality noticed in the all plastic accessories and cheap clothing. I really miss the attention to detail that used to go into the dolls and their worlds, but we still love the dolls that we have.
Molly McIntire (1944)
Samantha Parkington (1904)
Felicity Merriman (1744)
Kirsten Larson (1854)
Just Like You
Kimberly Larson (#12)
Sophie (TCA Group Inc)
Katelyn (Always Sister)