A few years before Crissy doll made her debut in 1969 the American Character Doll Co. purchased the patents that launched a doll with not only rooted base or foundation hair, but also an extra strand, like a ponytail that could extend from inside the doll’s torso and up through an opening at the top of the head. This strand could also be retracted back into the doll so during play children could vary the length to create different hair styles!
This idea was born into reality with Tressy, first a larger Betsy McCall-like doll and later a Barbie-sized Fashion Tressy who’s hair could “grow” when you pushed a small button on her tummy while pulling on the strand. To make Fashion Tressy’s hair short again, a small key fit into a slot on the back of the doll to wind the strand back inside. To follow later was 9” Cricket who debuted as Tressy’s younger sister. They were both lovely dolls, inexpensive and popular with children and made American Character Doll a great deal of profit with their success. However, these early grow hair girls were not without their own problems.
There were a couple of design flaws that plagued these dolls. The small scale of the dolls did not allow much room inside the doll and the hair mechanism often jammed and more often the key would get misplaced…then other not-so-ideal tools got inserted into the key opening to work the mechanism resulting in making things even worse. While AC’s idea of a grow hair doll was excellent, the execution was not. Tressy and Cricket enjoyed a decent product lifespan and fell out of vogue by around 1966. American Character made several marketing blunders that put them into bankruptcy by 1967. And Ideal Toy Corp. acquired the Tressy and Cricket proprieties along with their patents. And the grow hair idea slept, for a season.
In the early Sixties, Ideal Toy Co. had met the challenge of their competitor Mattel with their own teenage fashion doll, Tammy and her extended family. Billed as the “doll you love to dress” Tammy’s “girl next door” demeanor contrasted, if not too sharply with Barbie’s “fashion plate” and come hither appeal. Tammy did very well in the market and was a definite feather in Ideal’s cap. It is interesting to note that a later model of the Tammy doll, Pos’n Tammy sported a long ponytail, although not a “growing” one.
No doubt, Ideal was one of the top toy manufacturers of the day, they were innovative, prosperous and well respected and as such, Ideal was also “well connected”. Ideal’s sales force had excellent ties to the many retail outlets and department stores that sold their wares, and among these Sears Dept. Stores was no small player.
Ideal worked closely with the retail giant knowing from past experience that Sears stores and their legendary catalogs had tremendous potential to reach customers. Ideal needed these marketing channels for their new doll and Sears would play a major part in its debut to the world. In the year 1968 all the pieces were being put in place for the launch of the new “grow hair” doll and Ideal was actively working with Sears behind the scenes on projects that would soon become visible in the market.
The idea of “Sears Exclusives”, toys or other goods made for and available only from Sears or their catalogs was not a new idea in 1968. At the time Sears regularly arranged for manufacturers to produce special items for them -- in anticipation of Ideal’s newest doll, these special items were a must for Sears when they carried the new doll. Today, some of these “Sears Exclusive” items are somewhat scarce and thus highly desired amongst collectors.
It had been some years since Tressy and Cricket, and since then, things had changed…the "Magic Summer of ’67" had come and gone but not without leaving it’s mark. There was something new in the air, something revolutionary – and the braintrust at Ideal was not so naïve to not sense the change.
In the late 60s, hair was in the minds of the general public in a big way. And no wonder! On the television, in Broadway plays, and in the lyrics of popular songs Americans were accosted with the virtues of “long beautiful hair” ! Long hair was not just a fashion statement, it was a political statement as well. Behind the long flowing locks was the essence of an intangible idea and the mantra of the day expressing freedom, independence, individuality, and youthful exuberance.
Now, the time was ripe for the Ideal Toy Company to take the properties they had acquired from American Character…the patent and design for the grow hair mechanism used in AC Tressy & Cricket and incorporate the idea into their own doll. With long hair being all the rage and a focal point in the lives of American citizen’s selling this new “grow hair” doll should be a cinch, a near risk free endeavor with a market already in place and guaranteed sales – if this is what Ideal’s executive and sales force were thinking they were absolutely correct.
Without a doubt long hair was “in” and also in just a couple of years women’s fashions had done a “180” from the conservative lines and subdued solid colors of the beginning of the decade to the near “anything goes” swirl of outrageous prints and explosive bursts of wild colors. These new Mod fashions and long hair for women (and men) walked hand in hand as the vanguard to the next decade. And the Seventies were the decade of Crissy doll and her family of dolls!