September 7 Illinois History Minute
It’s September 7th, the legal birthday of Raggedy Ann. Writer and illustrator Johnny Gruelle, who was born in Arcola, received a patent for his rag doll with red yarn for hair, black buttons for eyes and a triangle nose, on this day in 1915. There are conflicting stories about Raggedy Ann’s origins, but a common element is Gruelle’s retrieval of an old homemade rag doll from the attic of his parents’ house in Indianapolis. Starting from there, Gruelle developed the Raggedy Ann character, inspired by his daughter. Gruelle produced picture books about Raggedy Ann and his brother Raggedy Andy from 1918 into the 1970s.
Gruelle’s home town of Arcola hosted a Raggedy Ann festival and museum for several years, and more recently, a more modest Raggedy Ann Rally.