The Evolution of the Female Action Figure: A Journey from Doll to Hero

Industrialization: Dolls to Figures

The rise of Ford-ism in the late 19th century changed the manufacturing and commercialism of dolls as a public commodity forever. Assembly-line construction created dolls (and eventually action figures) at an unparalleled speed, rapidly diffusing them into mainstream markets. Dolls were now made out of cheaper and more durable materials, like porcelain, leather and eventually polymer and plastic in the early 20th century. As the cost of labor went down, so too did the cost of dolls. In the United States, colonial-themed dolls became extremely popular, with different colored cloth dresses sold separately as accessories. 

China and Bisque dolls came to be regarded as a luxury toy, with China dolls being glazed porcelain and Bisque being unglazed. This period also saw the advent of the modern baby doll, a product marketed towards young girls who strived to one day be domesticated mothers, a reflection of societal expectations. Paper dolls also became abundantly popular in the 20th century, as consumers could now customize current outfits on their dolls at an unbeatable paper price. The 1930s also saw the first major "character dolls," specifically that of Shirley Temple, a childhood star. This doll paved the way for other iconic dolls to come about, eventually setting the stage for modern action figures just two decades later. 

Contents of this path: