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. Previously 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 reverted back to Historical Characters (while still keeping many changes implemented from BeForever).
This product line was originally the sole focus of the American Girl company and includes the first dolls and characters released.
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 Gotz. As the line expanded, extra clothing, furniture, and storage trunks were released.
In 1990, while Felicity Merriman was still in design, a radical 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 historically accurate 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 image of the body being flesh. The original three dolls were given 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. Her being African-American required 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 accessories came out in spring 1998. This was the last Historical Character designed predominantly by Pleasant Company, as Mattel purchased the company in 1998.
In Fall 2000 (soon after the full 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 later released 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, some clothing, 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 remaining best friends, Ivy and Ruthie Smithens.
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 and Nanea Mitchell was announced. Nanea and her collection were released in August 2017.
In 2019, the line reverted back to to "Historical Characters" and revised, abridged Central Series books were released with illustrations returning. The first six characters revamped were Kaya, Rebecca, Nanea, Maryellen, Melody, and Julie; however, all characters received new era-unique logos with their name and year focus..
- See: BeForever
In early 2014, information was seen on the American Girl Publishing site that showed the rebranding of the Historical Characters as "BeForever." Early 2014, American Girl's official Facebook page announced the rerelease of Samantha; later, the announcement came of the rebranding of the remaining Historical Characters under the concept of BeForever. The rebranding is an attempt to make Historical characters again relevant to new generations of young girls. This is both by tying the characters to the ways that girls have remained the same through history and had the same feelings and ideas, and to market the characters as companions. BeForever was launched August 28th, 2014.
Original Meet Outfits for Addy, Samantha, Julie, Rebecca, Kit and Josefina were retired and replaced with new versions. The Central Series books was rebundled into two volumes that contained three of each book; all illustrations other than the cover images were removed. Characters also received My Journey Books, books 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 Historicals officially on October 1, 2019.
- Kaya'aton'my, representing Native America in a region prior to larger European-centered settlement (specifically, the Nimipuu tribe of the Pacific Northwest)
- Felicity Merriman, representing Colonial America at the dawn of the Revolutionary War
- Caroline Abbott, representing the War of 1812
- Josefina Montoya, representing Southwest America under Mexican rule
- 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 American Progressive Era
- Rebecca Rubin, representing early twentieth century immigration to America from Eastern Europe and events leading to World War I
- 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 upheaval and changes of American society during the mid 1970s
- Best Friend Characters, companions to select characters
- Historical Collections, the collections and items for Historical characters
- Central Series, the books telling the stories of the characters
- Short Stories, smaller stories for the first eight characters
- Historical Character Mysteries, novel-length mysteries for characters
- BeForever, the branding of the line from 2014 to 2019
- My Journey Books, game books with a protagonist exploring a historical character's era