Often referred to as the Alabama
Indestructible Baby, the Ella Smith Doll dates back over one hundred years. In 1897, Mrs.
Ella Smith repaired a neighbor child's porcelain doll by pouring a mixture of plaster and
fiber inside the damaged head to give it strength and durability. From this simple and
innovative beginning came the idea for one of the most distinctive dolls ever to grace a
Mrs. Smith experimented with plaster and various fabrics,
refining her design as she worked. Her earliest dolls were made of plaster with cotton
stretched over the surface. She left the heads uncapped for filling (with cotton from the
local cotton gin) and, after stuffing the dolls, she stitched a crown of fabric over the
top. The head, arms, and legs were then painted; the unpainted torso remained soft.
Because the dolls were hand painted, each had a slightly different facial expression.
Eventually, Mrs. Smith perfected her design, developing a doll
so sturdy that it was said a truck could drive over the doll without damaging it.
At the height of the little doll's popularity, Mrs. Smith's small factory,
with only eight to twelve employees, produced 8,000 dolls a year. She advertised through
mail order and displayed the dolls at shows and expositions. Thousands of children were
thrilled to find this unusual toy in their Christmas stockings.
While attempting to expand her business, Mrs. Smith met with a
series of unfortunate incidents, including the loss of many orders in a train wreck,
forcing her to move her factory back into her home. When she died in 1932, her company
died with her. Originals of her whimsical little dolls are now extremely hard to find.