Amy Parham of Kyle, daughter Meridian and son Clay, show off some of the more colorfully dressed dolls in the family’s Madame Alexander First Ladies Collection, on loan to the LBJ Museum of San Marcos. The collection is on loan to the LBJ Museum of San Marcos starting Feb. 18. SUBMITTED PHOTO.
By PAT MURDOCK
A special exhibit of first lady Madame Alexander dolls will have a special opening at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 18.
The collection, on loan from Kyle resident Amy Parham, her son Clay and daughter Meridian, will remain on exhibit through the months of February and March as a President’s Day tribute. The dolls are elaborately dressed in replicas of the first ladies’ inaugural attire.
Prized by doll collectors around the world, Madame Alexander dolls have been made by the Alexander Doll Company, based in New York City, for the past 85 years. Coincidently, the company is celebrating 85 years of premium doll making this year. The company’s Web site notes that it “continues the tradition, elegance and innovation of Madame Alexander dolls with a full line of fine quality, handcrafted collectible dolls, baby dolls and play dolls. The Alexander Doll Company is the only remaining major manufacturer of handcrafted dolls in America.”
According to a corporate press release, the First Ladies Collection is being reintroduced this year, starting with “three of America’s most beloved first ladies: Mary Todd Lincoln, Dolly Madison and Eleanor Roosevelt.”
Although these three dolls — all present in Parham’s collection — might be America’s favorites, Parham’s favorite doll is the Lady Bird Johnson doll.
“Of all the people in the world I wanted to meet, it was Lady Bird,” Parham says. She did meet her a couple of years before her death. “She was so beautiful still,” Parham said.
A native of Cleburne in Johnson County, Texas, and a 15-year Hays County resident, Parham said her grandmother and her parents began buying her Madame Alexander dolls when she was two years old, starting with the company’s popular international doll series.
Moving on up to the First Ladies Collection, beginning with the Martha Washington doll, was a natural for Parham and her politically involved family. She has a project management and consulting business and her mother is Democratic Party chair in her native Johnson County. She made her first block walk at the age of nine.
Parham’s collection includes 37 dolls, running up through Pat Nixon. According to LBJ Museum Director Scott Jordan, who has inventoried the collection and planned the exhibit, there is one duplicate in Parham’s collection – Lou Hoover, the wife of the 31st President, Herbert Hoover, who was in office from 1929 to 1933. Parham does not recall how she acquired two of the Hoover dolls.
Jordan declines to say which first ladies are absent. In fact, he says, it is not all that cut and dried where the first ladies are concerned. Some Presidents had sisters or daughters as their official White House hostesses and inaugural companions. But he does invite the public to come look at the exhibit and determine the missing ladies for themselves.
The LBJ Museum of San Marcos, located at 131 N. Guadalupe St. on the square in downtown San Marcos, is normally open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For this special exhibit, it will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 18. There is no charge for admission to the museum, but contributions are gratefully accepted.
After more than nine years of planning and fundraising, the LBJ Museum of San Marcos opened its doors to the public for the first time on Dec. 6, 2006. The museum fills a special niche in the Johnson legacy. It celebrates the President’s days in San Marcos while attending what is now Texas State University-San Marcos and his days as a public school teacher in Cotulla and Houston. It has a unique perspective to share with the public about the man known as “The Education President.”
For more information, contact Jordan at the museum at (512) 353-3300.
ABOVE: Amy Parham and Meridian Parham carefully admire the Mary Todd Lincoln doll, attired in dark velvet for her husband’s inauguration. SUBMITTED PHOTO.