Johnny Gruelle is best known for creating the world famous rag doll characters, Raggedy Ann and Andy. While the Raggedys were the indisputable centerpiece of Gruelle's career, in his heart of hearts, Johnny was a dyed-in-the-wool freelance artist, who felt most at home at his drawing board, crafting illustrations and features for newspapers and magazines.
Marcella, Johnny Gruelle's daughter, brought him an old rag doll one day, and he drew a face on the worn fabric. Pulling a book off the shelf, he noticed two James Witcomb Riley poems, 'The Raggedy Man' and 'Little Orphan Annie'. Why don't we call her Raggedy Ann?, he said. Or so the story goes. Gruelle's family made the original doll by hand, and he gave Raggedy Ann life in 1915. She became a children's book character in 1918, and Gruelle's publisher P.F. Volland arranged to sell Raggedy Ann dolls as well.
The tie-in between Gruelle's Raggedy Ann Stories and the dolls proved a great marketing success. Gruelle averaged one new book a year for twenty years.
Reprinted many times, the books renew the character for every generation. In the stories kindly Raggedy Ann comes to life when humans aren't looking and embarks on adventures with her brave brother Andy. Marcella Gruelle tragically died at age 13, just as Raggedy Ann debuted. But she showed up as a tender remembrance in Marcella: A Raggedy Ann Story (1929).