Born in 1880 into the household of noted landscape painter Richard B. Gruelle, John Barton Gruelle developed rapidly as an artist. While still in his teens, Gruelle became a cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star and by the time he was twenty, he had accepted a position at the Cleveland Press. A gifted artist, Gruelle could draw any kind of cartoon or illustration and began writing and illustrating his own children’s stories for the Cleveland paper.
As his reputation grew, so did his output including the cartoon strip Mr. Twee Deedle for the New York Herald and numerous children’s stories for Good Housekeeping. At home he loved to tell stories to his daughter, Marcella. One day, Marcella found an old rag doll in the attic of the family home. Though the doll was in decrepit condition, Gruelle thought that he could rejuvenate it for his daughter. He drew the doll a new face and Grandmother Gruelle sewed on a new shoe-button eye and hand-stitched a perfect heart-shaped candy heart.
Marcella became inseparable from the doll. Gruelle realized the economic potential and soon set up a home assembly line to produce replicas, obtaining a patent in September of 1915. With World War I raging, his doll became the darling of American households. Soon Gruelle translated the image to the drawing board while writing the dolls adventures. Marcella’s beloved doll eagerly awaited her debut and in 1918 RAGGEDY ANNE STORIES, by Johnny Gruelle set sail on its incredible journey into the hearts of millions of children all over the world.