The Historical Characters, often abbreviated Historicals by fans, refers to the flagship American Girl doll collection that focuses on the lives of various historical characters through United States history. First known as The American Girls Collection, the line was rebranded in 2014 as BeForever which was dropped in 2019 with the name of the line reverting back to Historical Characters (while still keeping many of the changes implemented from BeForever).
This product line was originally the sole focus of the American Girl company and includes the first characters released.
- Kaya'aton'my, representing Native America in a region prior to larger European-centered settlement (specifically, the Nimiipuu peoples of the Pacific Northwest)
- Felicity Merriman, representing English Colonial America at the dawn of the Revolutionary War
- Caroline Abbott, representing the War of 1812
- Josefina Montoya, representing Southwest America under Mexican rulership
- Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner, representing New Orleans in the antebellum period and during the 1853 yellow fever epidemic
- Kirsten Larson, representing mid-century settlement of the American "West" by European immigrants and pioneers
- Addy Walker, representing the tail end of the Civil War era and early Reconstruction Era
- Samantha Parkington, representing turn-of-the-century America and the early American Progressive Era
- Rebecca Rubin, representing early twentieth century/World War I era with focus on American Jewish culture, immigration, and silent film era
- Kit Kittredge, representing the American Great Depression era
- Nanea Mitchell, representing the World War II era from the Pearl Harbor bombing and America's official entry into the war
- Molly McIntire, representing the tail end of the World War II era
- Maryellen Larkin, representing the Cold War and Postwar Baby Boom eras during the 1950s
- Melody Ellison, representing the African-American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s
- Julie Albright, representing the feminist/societal changes of American society during the mid 1970s and the Bicentennial
- Courtney Moore, representing the feminist and technological/societal changes in American society and the AIDS pandemic in the mid 1980s
Pleasant Rowland gave two reasons for her initial creation of the line. One reason was to provide a doll the same age as the child who would be playing with it and present it as a friend rather than a baby to take care of or an adult to be like in the future, as at the time there were few long-term doll lines that focused on a girl at the ages of eight to ten; most popular dolls were marketed as either babies to care for, fashion, or adult- or teenagehood to later aspire to. The other reason was to offer a chance to teach history to children using the method of a character near their age, offering a smaller personal focus for largely arching historical time periods and giving a personal focus from a character whom they could relate to.
History of the Line
The Historical Collection--and Pleasant Company itself--launched in 1986 with the release of Kirsten Larson, Samantha Parkington, and Molly McIntire. The dolls were released with small collections: the dolls themselves, meet accessories, school clothing and accessories, holiday clothing and dolls, and the first three books of each's Central Series, with the Meet Books coming bundled with the doll. The dolls had been developed by Götz. As the line expanded, extra clothing, furniture, and items such as storage trunks were released.
In 1990 while Felicity Merriman was still in design, a major change was made in the body of the dolls. Previously, the dolls had white muslin bodies; all clothes were designed to cover up the body with high necks and full bodies, which was assumed to be historically accurate dress for the time. Due to the low neckline of historical colonial outfits, Felicity could not have a white muslin body as it would destroy the doll's aesthetics and the perception of the body being flesh. The original three dolls were changed to have skin-tone matching bodies, and in the following fall of 1991, Felicity (with a skin-tone matching body) was added to the collection along with her first three books and related accessories. This led to all future dolls having bodies that were much closer to the doll's given skin tone. Felicity's last three books and complementing accessories came out in spring 1992.
In fall 1993, Addy Walker was added to the collection along with her first three books and items. Her being African-American resulted in a new face mold, the Addy Mold. Her last three books and complementing accessories came out in spring 1994.
In fall 1997, Josefina Montoya was added to the collection along with her first three books. She was given a new mold as well, the Josefina Mold. Her last three books and complementing outfits and accessories came out in spring 1998. This was the last Historical Character designed predominantly by Pleasant Company, as Mattel purchased the company in 1998 (though Kit was in design at the time).
In fall 2000 (soon after the completion of the purchase by Mattel), Kit Kittredge was added to the collection along with her first three books and associated accessories. Her last three books and complementing accessories came out in spring of 2001.
In fall 2002, Kaya'aton'my was added to the collection along with all her books and several complementing accessories; because of the Nimipuu cultural trait of generally not baring teeth, the Kaya Mold was made.
In fall 2007, Julie Albright was released with all her books and several items in her collection. She was also released with her companion doll, Ivy Ling. Her birthday and summer sets were released in spring 2008.
In fall 2008, American Girl announced that they would archive Samantha's entire collection; she, Nellie O'Malley, and their collections would no longer be available for purchase with the exception of books, movie, and the Mini Dolls. Nellie and Samantha dolls, along with a majority of the collection, began to sell out by the beginning of December 2008.
In spring 2009, Rebecca Rubin was released with all her books and several aspects of her collection. At the same time, Samantha and Nellie were officially archived. In fall 2009, American Girl announced that they would archive Kirsten's entire collection; she and her collection would no longer be available for purchase with the exception of books and the Mini Dolls.
In 2010, Kirsten was officially archived. In fall 2010, American Girl announced that they would archive Felicity's entire collection; she, Elizabeth Cole, and their collections would no longer be available for purchase with the exception of books, movie, and the Mini Dolls.
In spring 2011, Felicity and Elizabeth were officially archived. In summer 2011, two new Historical Characters, Marie-Grace Gardner and Cécile Rey, were made available for pre-order on the official website and released in late summer with all their books and several items in their collections.
In fall 2012, a new Historical Character, Caroline Abbott, was released and made available for purchase along with her books, outfits, accessories, and furniture.
In summer 2013 American Girl announced that they would archive Molly's entire collection; she, Emily Bennett, and their collections would become unavailable for purchase with the exception of books, movie, and the two mini dolls (which have since been retired).
In early 2014 it was announced that Samantha would be rereleased, and information began to be officially released for the BeForever rebranding. Later, it was separately announced that Cécile and Marie-Grace would be retired, along with the last two remaining best friends, Ivy and Ruthie Smithens. BeForever was launched in fall 2014 and resulted in multiple changes for many characters.
In spring 2015, American Girl announced that they would archive Caroline's entire collection; she and her collection would no longer be available for purchase with the exception of books and the mini doll. They later announced the release of Maryellen Larkin, who was released August 2015.
In 2017, Felicity was rereleased with a small collection as part of the BeForever lineup and Nanea Mitchell was announced. Nanea and her collection were released in August 2017. With Nanea's release, Addy and Samantha were given semi-retired or "cubed" status, with only the dolls, meet accessories, books, and mini dolls remaining available.
In 2018, Molly's books were released in the BeForever format. A mini doll with revised meet outfit was also released. An 18" Molly doll with a revised meet outfit was sold exclusively in Costco stores later that year. Her new meet outfit and pajamas were available through sales on American Girl's site in 2019 and 2020, but the doll was not sold in a standard format outside of discount clearance.
In fall 2019 the line branding reverted back to to "Historical Characters" and revised, abridged Central Series books were released with illustrations returning (and created for characters initially released without). The first six characters revamped were Kaya, Rebecca, Nanea, Maryellen, Melody, and Julie; however, all current characters received new era-unique logos with their name and year focus. This included Felicity, even though she was archived again by the end of 2019. A new logo was also made for Molly, but it only appeared on the American Girl Publishing website as she was never re-released in stores. When the line was revamped, Josefina and Kit's collections were mostly retired and the two dolls were retired to "cubed" status.
In 2020, Addy, Josefina, and Kit received the revised, abridged Central Series books with illustrations leaving only Samantha with BeForever book editions. American Girl also retired the My Journey books, the historical mystery books, and any remaining Best Friends books and most lingering older style books. In September 2020, Courtney Moore, her first book, and the start of her collection were released.
In February 2021, Courtney's second book, as well as other items, were released. In May as part of the 35th Anniversary of American Girl the company released Limited Edition Anniversary dolls of the first six Historical Characters as the 35th Anniversary Collection, in the styles they were each initially released in. The bundles cost $150 and are intended to evoke the older styles of the characters at their initial releases (in the case of Kirsten, this means are almost no changes at all as she has had no changes or a BeForever change). A bundle includes the doll in the first released version of her meet outfit, first style of meet accessories, the parchment style of her meet book and an older-style box modified with visibility window and logo image on front. The first five also have the first edition thin-style eyebrows as opposed to newer-style feathered brows and all six have neck strings as opposed to modern zip ties.
- See: BeForever
In early 2014, information was seen on the American Girl Publishing site that showed the rebranding of the Historical Characters as BeForever. American Girl's official Facebook page announced the rerelease of Samantha followed by an announcement the rebranding of the remaining Historical Characters under the concept of BeForever. The rebranding was done to to make the Historical Characters relevant again to new generations of young children; this was done both by tying the characters to the ways that children have remained the same through history and had the same feelings and ideas, and marketing the characters as companions and friends rather than isolated into their time periods. BeForever was launched August 28th, 2014.
This resulted in multiple changes in the historical collections, with the most prominent being that original meet outfits--later called "classic meet outfits"--for Addy, Julie, Rebecca, Kit and Josefina were retired and replaced with new versions. Samantha also received a newer meet outfit with the classic one no longer available. The other more prominent change was that the Central Series books were reformatted into two volumes that contained three books combined and all illustrations other than the cover images were removed. Characters also received My Journey Books, gamebooks stylized like a "choose your own adventure" book set in the time of the characters.
Maryellen Larkin, Melody Ellison, and Nanea Mitchell were initially launched within the BeForever format.
BeForever was removed as a branding for Historical Characters officially on October 1, 2019.
- Best Friend Characters, companions to select characters
- Historical Collections, the collections and items for Historical characters
- Central Series, the six- and later two-book series telling the stories of the characters
- Short Stories, smaller stories released for the first eight characters
- Historical Character Mysteries, novel-length mysteries for multiple characters
- BeForever, the branding of the line from 2014 to 2019
- My Journey Books, BeForever branded game books with a modern protagonist exploring a historical character's era
- Initially released during BeForever branding.