Sunday, May 7, 2017

Finding Martha's Doll

The other day while out thrift shopping at my
local Goodwill Store, I came across a rather 
scruffy-looking doll in the doll and toy section
 that reminded me of a Cabbage Patch Kid.

Looking over the doll closely I found the
maker's mark at the back of the doll's plastic head,
"COPR 1984 M.N. Thomas"

An original Martha Nelson Thomas Baby Doll head.
This doll's face is identical to the face
on the doll I recently purchased in Goodwill.

Since I have never been a big collector of Cabbage Patch Kids,
I assumed (at first) that this poor abandoned doll was some kind of
 a knock off of the original and so I put him back on the shelf
and walked away to look at something else.

Yet, as I perused the rest of the aisles of the store, I kept thinking
about that doll laying there lonely and forgotten on the shelf.
 There was something unusual about his
features that intrigued me. 
 So I went back for a second look. 
Although he was a bit on the dirty side,
and wearing a real baby diaper, I could see
that his stuffed, soft sculptured body
  was sturdy and well made.
 So, I decided to buy him and take
him home with me.  I am glad I did.

Later, while researching  "M.N. Thomas dolls" online,
I made the startling discovery that the doll, whom I have 
 since cleaned up and decided to name Adam David,  
is not only a rare treasure, but, unfortunately a doll
with a sad and tragic past.

I further discovered that "M.N. Thomas" was actually
Martha Nelson Thomas, a doll artist from western Kentucky,
and the creator of her own line of unique, soft-sculptured baby 
dolls, which she began making in the early 1970's. 

Martha Nelson Thomas and her Babies

According to more online research, a
 self-professed 'doll sculptor' named Xavier Roberts 
 met up with Martha while she was
selling her dolls at a craft fair.
 He liked her dolls so much that he bought
some to sell in his store, however, when
Martha found out he was overcharging for her dolls,
she became distraught and took her dolls and
her permission back from Roberts, 
denying him the right to sell them.

In retaliation, Roberts wrote Martha
a letter in which he implied that if he
could not sell her dolls anymore than
he would "sell some just like them".

 Roberts made good on his promise.

Taking Martha's original design, as well as
 copying her adoption certificate- for-every-doll,
 Roberts eventually, and with much success,
launched his line of Cabbage Patch Kids.

The dolls were an overnight sensation and 
topped the Christmas wish lists of many little
girls all over America in 1983.
I can remember a woman I know getting up
out of bed in the predawn hours of a freezing
December morning to stand outside a department
store in order to get a ticket to purchase a
Cabbage Patch Kid from the store's 
limited supply for her daughter.
I  further remember how excited and happy my baby sister 
 was when she opened her own Cabbage Patch Kid
on Christmas morning that year.

Xavier Roberts
Creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids

When asked where he got the idea for his dolls,
Xavier Roberts told the media, "I'm just a good ole
southern boy with a good idea."
The only thing wrong with his statement was
that the idea did not originate with him.
Tragically, Martha Nelson Thomas passed away
after a valiant battle against ovarian cancer in 2013.

 I pray she rests in peace
knowing that the truth has now prevailed.

The Secret History of the Cabbage Patch Kids

Since learning about the dark history of the Cabbage Patch Kids,
I do not think I will ever feel the same about them again.

 However, I am particularly thankful that I found
one of Martha Nelson Thomas' precious babies waiting 
 for me on the shelf in Goodwill this week!

No comments:

Post a Comment