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Gruelle family collection

 Collection — Box: 1-22
Identifier: 108.5530
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.


  • 1888 - 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.)


16.5 Linear Feet (22 boxes)


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.

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.

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

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.

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.


Finding Aid to the Gruelle Family Collection
Julia Novakovic
31 July 2013
Description rules

Revision Statements

  • July 2013: Cheri Crist and Doris Sturzenberger created a detailed inventory for this collection in March 2009. Revised processing and finding aid were completed by Julia Novakovic in July 2013.

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)