1997 32¢ Alabama Baby
Classic American Dolls
Issue Date: July 28, 1997
City: Anaheim, CA
Printed By: Sterling Sommer for Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: 10.9 x 11.1
Advertised as “The Alabama Indestructible Doll,” the Alabama Baby, as it came to be called, had its beginnings when Ella Smith repaired a bisque doll for a neighbor’s child and realized the need for a doll that was unbreakable. Eventually, a factory worker claimed a delivery truck ran over one of her cloth dolls and never even cracked the paint.
Made with soft cloth bodies, the dolls had stiffened fabric heads with molded and painted features. Early Alabama Babies were originally marked on the stomach with the firm’s name and a date or number. And since they were stuffed from the top of their heads, the dolls can be easily distinguished by their stitched circular crowns. Ella Smith’s dolls were not only durable, but also extremely popular. In one year alone, her small factory in Roanoke, Alabama, reportedly produced as many as 8,000 dolls. Not content with her initial success, she continually sought to improve her dolls, applying for five patents starting in 1905.
Black Alabama Babies, such as the one shown on this stamp, are extremely rare and valuable. Black models of dolls were occasionally produced for black children, but white children also owned and loved the dolls. The little boy on the front poses for a 1920s photograph with his black composition doll.