The first American Girl catalogue debuted in 1986 and the company was founded as the Pleasant Company in the same year by educator and writer Pleasant T. Rowland. The American Girl idea came when Pleasant T. Rowland was looking for dolls to give her nieces for Christmas. She found only baby, teen and adult dolls. That shopping experience, coupled with a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, inspired her to create the American Girl line of historical dolls and books.
Pictured right: Lanie – American Girl’s New 2010 Girl Of The Year Inspires Kids To Connect With Nature Through Outdoor Play.
In 1986 the first Pleasant Company catalogs had Samantha Parkington, Kirsten Larson, and Molly McIntire. These featured the first three stories of each character’s eventual six-book series, as well as their pajamas, beds and trunks. The doll’s facemold was designed by Götz, a German doll-maker. The company has added a number of subsequent historical characters including Felicity Merriman in 1991, Addy Walker in 1993, and Josefina Montoya in 1997. In 1998, Pleasant Company became a subsidiary of Mattel, Inc.
The 9-year-old fictional heroines live during important times in America’s past, providing “girl-sized” views of significant events that helped shape our country, and bring history alive for millions of children. (American Girl)
The historical angle and the bringing the characters to life through dolls, books and movies has been a great success with over 14 millions dolls and over 120 million books being sold. Some characters have been retired such as Samantha Parkington and the current line includes Kaya®, Felicity®, Josefina®, Kirsten®, Addy®, Rebecca™, Kit®, Molly®, and Julie® (as of July 2009). Associated wth the line is The American Girl® magazine which has nearly 600,000 subscribers and is on the top 10 children’s magazines in the US.