1. Home

A Brief History of Talking Dolls--From Bebe Phonographe to Amazing Amanda

Dolls With Something To Say

By

Amazing Amanda

Amazing Amanda: An Interactive Doll

Playmates Toys
Since dolls were invented, dollmakers have tried many ways to make their dolls more realistic. Creating a doll that could talk was one of the holy grails of the early dollmakers, and the desire to have dolls talk in continually more realistic ways has continued throughout the 20th century into the 21st.

Mama Criers: A Simple Solution

Of course, many dollmakers tried to incorporate "mama" criers in their dolls throughout the 1800s all the way to today. This is the simplest type of "talking doll," made to talk throughout a bellows or weighted mechanism crier. Of course, what dollmakers really dreamed of was a doll that could talk using a human voice.

French Dollmakers and The Phonograph

French dollmakers of porcelain bebe dolls were some of the first dollmakers to seriously pursue a true "talking doll" and several of them toyed with the idea and produced various patents, most based on the phonograph mechanism which was invented in 1876. One of the very first talking dolls ever made and marketed was the Bebe Phonographe which was created by the Jumeau Company. This doll incorporated a phonograph mechanism patented by Henri Lioret in 1893 in the hollow torso of the doll. This was a type of phonograph was a low cost one to be used in children's toys. The doll was introduced in 1894 (it is also known as the Lioretgraph Jumeau). The doll could speak 35 words as well as sing and tell stories. The doll was expensive to produce and not many were made. It was only on the market for a few years, until Jumeau was dissolved into SFBJ.

Talking Touselhead Lovums

American dollmakers, of course, were also very interested in making a talking doll as composition dolls became all the rage in the early 20th century. One example would be the Talking Touselhead Lovums produced by Effanbee. This doll, created circa 1939, worked by playing "record" cylinders in the torso of the doll. The doll could say nursery rhymes and sing.

Mattel Talking Dolls Including Chatty Cathy

Most of the talking mechanisms created for bisque and composition dolls were somewhat cumbersome and expensive. It wasn't until the Mattel company came up with a simple pull-string talking mechanism that it incorporated in many toys, and then dolls in the early 1960s that talking dolls became widespread and relatively inexpensive. Dolls such as Chatty Cathy, Sister Small Talk, Mrs. Beasly and the Talking Barbie used this mechanism.

Interactive Dolls: Talking Ally and Talking Amanda

Some talking dolls continue to use the pull-string technology today. However, technology has progressed by leaps and bounds and so have talking dolls. Now, its not enough for a doll to talk--the current generation of doll manufacturers wants to create an interactive doll. Amazing Ally and her friends were one of the first forays towards an interactive talking doll in the late 1990s. These dolls could recognize various objects, and they had an internal talking mechanism that could store countless phrases. In 2005, Amazing Amanda was introduced. This doll goes one step further--she has voice recognition technology that allows her to recognize the voice of her "mommy." Its hard to say where new (and cheaper) technologies will take talking dolls in the future, but wherever they go, it will be interesting.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.