Kenner Blythe: A History

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A brief history of the Kenner Co.

Founded in 1947, the Kenner Company was created by three brothers: Albert, Philip, and Joseph Steiner. The company was named after the street in which the original office was located: Kenner Street in Cincinnati, OH. This street is still in operation and is located next to the Cincinnati Museum Center. The General Mills Company purchased Kenner products in 1967.

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Fast forward to 1972 and Blythe is introduced. Sadly, Blythe fails to be popular and scares children with her large head. The production of dolls stops after a year. Blythe can be found in the 1972 and 1973 Toy Fair Catalogs but not 1974. Tonka buys Kenner products and in 1991, Hasbro purchases Tonka and Kenner products. In 2000, Hasbro closes the Kenner offices in Cincinnati. Kenner’s lines are then merged with Hasbro.

Who is Blythe?

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Originally invented by Allison Katzman, the concept of Blythe was inspired by Katzman’s daughter. Katzman’s daughter came home wearing contacts that were dyed incorrectly and made her eyes appear a different color. Katzman worked with Gordon Barlow to design the eye mechanism for Marvin Glass & Associates toy studio in Chicago, Illinois. Katzman sent out the concept for Blythe and was turned down by many toy companies. However, Kenner decided to take on the Blythe line and produce it.

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Exact production numbers for Blythe are unknown but Blythe was only produced for one year, 1972. The dolls were advertised through television adverts, holiday department store catalogs, local adverts for various stores, and through the Fun Catalog found in some Gold Key comic books sold for the holiday season in 1972.

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Dolls produced earlier in 1972 have 6 lines of text on back (prototypes do as well) while dolls made later in 1972 have 7 lines of text on back.

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6 lines:
Blythe TM
KENNER PRODUCTS
CINCINNATI, OHIO
c 1972 GMFG INC
PATENTS PENDING
MADE IN HONG KONG

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7 lines:
Blythe TM
KENNER PRODUCTS
CINCINNATI, OHIO
c 1972 GENERAL MILLS
FUN GROUP INC
PATENTS PENDING
MADE IN HONG KONG

Kenner produced 4 different hair colors and 3 hair styles. However, not all hair colors were made in all 3 hair styles. Brunette dolls and redhead dolls were sold in all three hair styles: center part with thick (chunky) bangs, center part with wispy bangs, and sidepart with no bangs. Blonde dolls were only sold with the sidepart hairstyle and no bangs. Raven dolls were only sold with the center part and wispy bangs. Typically, the dolls were packaged and sold in specific Kenner Blythe outfits and color boxes, depending on their hair color.*

*for more information on this and other variations, please see Variations.

Blonde
Sidepart without bangs
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-Pink box, Pretty Paisley outfit, white stand

Raven
Wispy bangs with center part

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-Orange box, Medieval Mood outfit, white stand

Redhead
Sidepart without bangs, chunky bangs with center part,
wispy bangs with center part

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-Green box, Love ‘N Lace outfit, white stand

Brunette
Sidepart without bangs, chunky bangs with center part,
wispy bangs with center part

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-Blue box, Golden Goddess outfit, white stand

 

They came with a white stand in the shape of an X, in which their legs could fit around, allowing the dolls to stand. However, this stand can add pressure to the lower pelvis, often resulting in cracks on NRFB or dolls stored on this stand. It is also easy for the dolls to fall over and off the stand, which can cause their knee joint(s) to break so that they no longer bend.

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