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March 26th, 2009
08:55 AM ET

No job? Create your own!

Peter Bregman
Special to CNN

Madame Alexander was one of the great innovators in the doll industry.

According to the company that bears her name, she made the first doll with moving eyelids, the first doll based on a licensed character (Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind), the first doll fashioned after a living person (Queen Elizabeth) and many others.

But what's most interesting is how and why the company got started.

Beatrice Alexander's father owned the first doll "hospital" in New York City, where broken porcelain dolls were sent to be repaired. That got her thinking. Maybe porcelain wasn't the best material for a doll. So she sat around her kitchen table with her four sisters, and they started a business sewing dolls out of cloth.

Theirs were not the only cloth dolls (Raggedy Anne was already popular), but they created a Red Cross doll, a smart choice so soon after World War I. She put all the dolls in a big suitcase and lugged them around to local mom and pop stores where she made small sales.

No bank would lend to her; she was a 20-something woman in the early 1900s, a poor risk. So she scraped together what she could and just started. Eventually, she found someone who was willing to loan her $1,600, which she paid back in half the time she was allotted.

After four years of dragging that suitcase door to door, she got her first big break: a big sale to FAO Schwarz.

Read more...


Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Unemployment
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Neo

    Out of frustration success can be born. There is only so much the gov't can do. Creativity will always be the solution to our problems. TY for this inspiring reminder.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  2. Chris Jones

    What a lovely peek into the history of the dolls we all loved as little girls. AND..,,as i'm shopping, producing and schlepping my idea of a great chicken pot pie to venues...and straight to the public, I'm wondering...can Whole Foods be my FAO?

    March 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  3. Bonnie

    This does happen–thks

    March 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  4. Leah Rogers

    Previous Commenter – It's not that simple, you have to work for it...nothing comes easy or for free.

    March 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  5. Jim

    Easyier said than done Peter- I've been unemployed for 2 years, I'm working on writting a book – try it sometime with no income & cheap computer programs.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  6. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Peter---if it was that simple---I wouldn't be typing a reply to you on my lunch hours a work.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  7. Larry

    would not be surprised if Obama solves the unemployment crisis by sending the unemployed to work in the fields harvesting crops.

    March 26, 2009 at 11:48 am |