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’s vision was founded on her unwavering belief that dolls should engage the imagination and contribute to a child’s happiness and understanding of the world. Over the decades, great works of literature, the arts, and the different cultures of the world became the inspiration for many of her creations. More than 85 years later, the company she founded upholds this dream by creating award-winning dolls that continue to delight generations of children and collectors all over the world.
Madame Alexander: Her Life and Company
The daughter of Russian immigrants, Beatrice Alexander was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 9, 1895. She was raised over her father’s doll hospital – the first in America – and often played with the dolls waiting to be mended. Her belief in the American dream, combined with her love of dolls and their costumes, led her to start her own doll company when she was 28 years old. Within a few years she had moved her business from the kitchen table to a downtown New York City studio, later relocating to its present day headquarters in the Manhattanville section of Harlem.
Madame Alexander always infused a sense of excitement, wonderment and quality into her handcrafted dolls, while never allowing her creations to emerge looking anything less than impeccable. Over the years, she initiated a series of “firsts” in the toy industry:
- 1930s, introduced the first dolls based on licensed characters from literature and the movies. Alice in Wonderland, Little Women, and Gone with the Wind were pioneering doll concepts which remain popular to this day.
- 1940s, the first dolls with “sleep” eyes that open and close.
- 1944, created the first line of patriotic dolls to honor the U.S. Armed Forces bravely fighting in World War II.
- 1947, utilizing new technology from DuPont™, created the first dolls made of hard plastic.
- The first to create dolls in honor of living people (Queen Elizabeth in 1953, and the Dionne Quints in 1937).
- 1955, introduced the first full-figured fashion doll (Cissy®) wearing flawlessly designed, haute couture outfits.
In addition, Madame was the recipient of numerous awards for her work over the years, including the prestigious Fashion Academy Gold Medal Award for four consecutive years (1951-1954) and Doll Reader magazine’s first Lifetime Achievement Award (1986).
Following her 90th birthday in 1985, Madame began to take on an advisory role in the company, officially retiring in 1988. On October 3, 1990, Madame Beatrice Alexander Berhman passed away at the age of 95.