Shirley Temple earns a spotlight at doll and toy museum

SPENCER, N.C. — On Saturday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m., an important book talk is taking place at the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum in Spencer, North Carolina. Cultural

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historian and professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, John Kasson, will review his new book about Shirley Temple, “The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America.”

Kasson writes that not only was Shirley Temple America’s sweetheart in the early 1930s, but she also played a significant role in pulling the nation out of a dark time in its history. For a brief period, people could forget the darkness of the national situation and smile as they watched Shirley dance, act and sing her way into America’s heart.

Her film career also stimulated the economy and her sunny disposition prompted all types of Shirley Temple items to become popular.

The backdrop of Professor Kasson’s discussion will be the huge collection of Shirley Temple dolls, paper items, pictures and collectibles that are housed in the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum. Thought to be one of the largest collections of Shirley Temple memorabilia in a museum on the East Coast, the collection came to North Carolina’s only non-profit toy doll and miniature museum from High Point.

The High Point Doll and Miniature Museum closed in 2012 and gifted its entire Shirley Temple collection to the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum. There are large, early composition Shirley Temple dolls from the 1930s made by Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, as well as smaller, hard plastic and vinyl Temple dolls also made by Ideal from the 1940s through the 1970s.

IDEAL Shirley Temple doll

The doll in the polka doll dress is a 16 inch Shirley Temple with a coin dot dress that look like the one in the movie Stand Up and Cheer.  Shirley is marked Shirley Temple IDEAL N&T Co on back of head. (Photo courtesy Spencer Doll and Toy Museum)

As Shirley’s fame increased, she was in demand to endorse many products, including sheet music, clothing, paper dolls, dishes and more. Books were written about her and one even by Shirley herself. Several of these items, including dishes and books, are on display at the museum with the dolls.

Shirley acted in films until she was 21, then married, had a family, and got involved in politics. Shirley Temple Black served in diplomatic assignments including U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later, Czechoslovakia. She lived 85 full years and passed away in February 2014.

The display at the Spencer Doll and Toy Museum is a fitting tribute to Shirley Temple’s short screen time but long-remembered fame and body of work. Her dimples, 56 curls and unlimited optimism still shine in her films as a new generation enjoys her dancing, singing and acting.

The Spencer Doll and Toy Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Check the website for more information and costs. In honor of Shirley Temple, the book talk on pt. 13 at 2 p.m. will be free of charge.

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