(Dec. 24, 1880-Jan. 9, 1938). Johnny Gruelle created the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls and stories. Born in Arcola, Illinois, the son of Alice and Richard Buckner Gruelle, Johnny moved to Indianapolis in 1882, where the family resided first in the Lockerbie Street area and later settled on the city’s eastside. Johnny grew up surrounded by music, literature, and the arts. His artist father eventually became known as a member of the Hoosier Group of Impressionists, and writers such as James Whitcomb Riley were regular visitors to the Gruelle home.

Raggedy Ann doll, displayed in the Hoosier Country Store at the Indianapolis International Airport, ca. 1970s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Rather than follow his father’s fine-art career, Johnny Gruelle honed his skills as a cartoonist. Around 1900, he took his first regular newspaper job with the Indianapolis People. In 1903, Gruelle joined the staff of the newly founded Indianapolis Star, where he provided scores of political, sports, stock-market, and headline cartoons. During those years Gruelle also worked briefly for the Indiana State Sentinel and Sun.

Johnny Gruelle already was an established newspaper cartoonist when he and his young family finally left the Hoosier capital in 1907 to move east—first to Cleveland, Ohio; several years later to Norwalk, Connecticut. It was in the East that Johnny became well known for his “Mr. Twee Deedle” comic in the New York Herald. He also illustrated children’s stories that appeared in women’s magazines, and his satirical “bird’s-eyeview” cartoons ran regularly in national humor magazines such as Judge.

Gruelle's Raggedy Anne stories inspired the title for this song "Raggedy Ann," ca. 1920s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

In 1915, Johnny Gruelle created and patented his Raggedy Ann doll. In 1918, he published Raggedy Ann Stories, followed two years later by a Raggedy Andy volume. Until his death in 1938, Johnny Gruelle wrote and illustrated, on average, one Raggedy Ann and Andy book per year.

Although Gruelle’s creation of his famous rag dolls occurred nearly a decade after he had left Indiana, legend has it that it was his mother’s Indianapolis attic that yielded the family-made rag doll that later served as the inspiration for Raggedy Ann. Throughout his life, Gruelle continued to think of himself as a native Hoosier, incorporating into his many books, magazine illustrations, and cartoons the friendly characters, idyllic scenery, and down-to-earth values and humor he so associated with growing up in Indiana.

Revised February 2021

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