Gruelle family collection Edit


Finding Aid Author
Julia Novakovic
Finding Aid Date
31 July 2013
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


  • 1888 – 2008 (Creation)


  • 16.5 Linear Feet (Whole)

Agent Links



  • Abstract

    The Gruelle family collection is a compilation of manuscripts, correspondence, drawings, art, photographs, personal materials, and publications from the Gruelle family. The bulk of the materials are from between 1910 and 1940, and then 1985 through 2008.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donors have not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, they have given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes. (Intellectual property rights for some of the materials in this collection may be controlled by Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

  • Custodial History

    The Gruelle family collection was donated to The Strong in November 2008 as a gift from Tom and Joni Gruelle Wannamaker. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 108.5530 and were received from Joni Gruelle Wannamaker.

  • Preferred citation for publication

    Gruelle family collection, Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong

  • Collection Scope and Content Note

    The Gruelle family collection contains materials from 1888 through 2008, with the bulk of the material from 1910 to 1940 and then 1985 through 2008. This collection comprises manuscripts, correspondence, artwork, cartoons, newspaper articles, periodicals, printed stories, photographs, genealogical information, and personal materials belonging to and/or created by three generations of Gruelle family members. Though much of the content of this collection is related to Raggedy Ann and Andy, there are other materials which showcase the creativity of the Gruelle family. Additional scope and content information is listed for each series or subseries under the “Contents List” section of this finding aid.

    The Gruelle family collection is arranged into nine series, five of which are further divided into subseries. The materials are housed in 22 archival document boxes.

  • Historical Note

    John Barton (“Johnny”) Gruelle was born in Arcola, Illinois, in 1880, to Richard and Alice Gruelle. His father was a self-taught painter, musician, and writer. John and his younger siblings, Prudence and Justin, inherited their father’s artistic talents. John turned his interest in drawing into a career as a political cartoonist for various newspapers in the early 1900s. John married Myrtle Swann, and they soon had three children. In 1911, John won a contest for a permanent position at the New York Herald, where he illustrated the comic strip “Mr. Twee Deedle” for nearly eight years. He signed his illustrated works “Johnny Gruelle.”

    The legend of Raggedy Ann began in 1914, when John’s daughter Marcella found a faceless rag doll in her grandparents’ attic. John and his wife Myrtle helped to transform the old doll into a more appealing plaything. John wrote short fantasy stories about the doll and her friends to entertain Marcella, who fell ill in 1915. She died the following year. John poured his grief into the creation of more Raggedy Ann stories—this time adding colorful illustrations. John’s coworkers greatly enjoyed his stories and urged him to publish them. In 1918, the P.F. Volland Co. released Raggedy Ann Stories to much acclaim. The F.A.O. Schwartz toy store contacted John to request dolls to accompany the books, which were difficult to keep in stock based on demand from customers. Raggedy Andy, Ann’s brother, made his literary debut in 1920. John continued to write at least one Raggedy Ann and Andy story every year until his death in 1938.

    Members of the Gruelle family, notably John’s widow Myrtle and son Worth, carried on the legacy of the Raggedy Ann and Andy franchise. Raggedy Ann’s popularity soared in the following decades, with sales of dolls, books, and related merchandise reaching millions of dollars annually. Arcola, Illinois hosted a Raggedy Ann and Andy Festival in 1990, which became a yearly event for two decades. Worth’s daughter (and John’s namesake), Joni, founded the Johnny Gruelle Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum, also in Arcola, in 1999. The museum showcased not only the beloved characters but also other works of John Gruelle. In 2009, the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum closed, but its collections live on in the holdings at The Strong.

  • Related Collections

    The National Museum of Play at The Strong holds a sizeable collection of items donated by the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum, formerly located in Arcola, Illinois. The Strong has more than 1,400 objects illustrating the myriad products which featured Raggedy Ann and Andy’s images for nearly a century. Raggedy Ann and Andy have been inducted into, and are on display in, the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong.

    The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong houses many original Raggedy Ann and Andy story books, also donated by Joni Gruelle Wannamaker.

  • System of Arrangement

    Series I: Manuscript materials, c. 1910-2008

    Subseries A: Johnny Gruelle
    Subseries B: Myrtle Gruelle
    Subseries C: Other Gruelle family members
    Subseries D: Miscellaneous manuscripts

    Series II: Correspondence, 1913-2008

    Subseries A: Personal correspondence
    Subseries B: Business correspondence

    Series III: Graphic materials, c. 1890-1998

    Subseries A: Original artwork
    Subseries B: Proofs and other printed materials
    Subseries C: Johnny Gruelle binders

    Series IV: Personal materials, 1912-2006

    Series V: Genealogical materials, 1972-2002

    Series VI: Raggedy Ann and Andy events, 1976-2008

    Subseries A: Museum exhibits
    Subseries B: Special events
    Subseries C: Special projects

    Series VII: Publications, 1910-2008

    Subseries A: News clippings
    Subseries B: Cartoons
    Subseries C: Advertisements
    Subseries D: Johnny Gruelle Stories
    Subseries E: Periodicals
    Subseries F: Catalogs
    Subseries G: Travel guides
    Subseries H: Miscellaneous publications

    Series VIII: Photographs, 1888-2000

    Series IX: Miscellaneous materials

External Documents


  • Type
    Container 1 Type
    Container 1 Indicator
    Container 1 Barcode
    Gruelle family collection