After almost a century, Raggedy Ann, the floppy, yarn-haired doll, is still a favorite with collectors, children and the young at heart. The dolls, patented in 1915, and storybooks, first published in 1918, were created by writer and illustrator Johnny Gruelle (GROO-ell). While most people appreciate Raggedy Ann and her sidekick, Andy, as Americana, many are surprised to learn they have a Southern Oregon connection.
In 1923, Gruelle, an adventuresome nature-loving sort, took his wife, Myrtle, and two sons on a working vacation. They drove from their home in Connecticut to Ashland, Oregon, in a small bus outfitted like a modern day motor home with seats that converted to bunks.
During the year they lived in Ashland, Gruelle painted two large murals for an ice cream parlor called the Raggedy Ann Sweet Shoppe owned by a family friend. The boys attended school, Myrtle entertained friends and Gruelle completed his third Raggedy book, The Camel With the Wrinkled Knees. The family also found time to enjoy the Southern Oregon landscape, picnicking, fishing on the Rogue, and staying in a cabin at Lake of the Woods.
In 1924 the Gruelles went home, taking with them fond memories and leaving behind Raggedy Ann and Andy for the Southern Oregon history books.
Dickson, Robin, interviewed by Pat Clason, April 12, 2005. Southern Oregon Historical Society Oral History 639.17; Dickson, Robin, ed. The Best of Dogs for the Deaf. Central Point, OR: Dogs for the Deaf, Inc, 1996; Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. website http://www.dogsforthedeaf.org/