Who is Martha Nelson Thomas??

11 Aug
  Have you ever seen a doll head, like the one above, for sale on eBay and wonder who the heck is Martha Nelson Thomas and why has she ‘copied’ the Cabbage Patch kids? Martha Nelson Thomas is a dollmaker from Kentucky. In the early 1970’s she was making amazing soft sculpture dolls-complete with birth certificates. She was doing this while Xavier Roberts was still in High School. Martha’s soft sculpture dolls looked very much like Xavier Roberts’ Little People that arrived on the scene just a few years later in the late 1970’s. HMMM……….now, who has copied who? A Martha Nelson Thomas of Louisville sued Roberts in early 1980 claiming that the idea for the dolls was hers. Was Martha Nelson Thomas just a parasite looking for 15 minutes of fame? Or was she telling the truth? Martha Nelson Thomas was selling her special soft sculpture dolls at a Crafts show in 1976. Xavier Roberts saw the dolls. He liked them so much that he later tried to make a deal with her to carry them in the gift shop he worked for. (Court records include a letter Roberts wrote suggesting he would, “carry your type of dolls.”) So what happened? First, Roberts and Thomas were unable to agree upon a price and the deal was forgotten. Roberts made his own dolls – over $500,000 worth in 1978 alone – and by 1979 Thomas took notice. Second, Thomas filed suit in January of 1980 alleging infringement on her design. The defense conceded that Roberts had seen her designs and had produced something similar but the initial claim was rejected in 1983 because she had not filed for a copyright on her dolls. Thomas produced her own line of “copycat” CPK dolls (though it is clear now who was copying who) called the Original Doll Baby, whose box emphasized that Thomas had been making them since 1971. This time she copyrighted them.Katrinastoyblog hopes that Martha was able to yeild enough money from the Original Doll Babies to make a comfortable life for herself and her family.Martha passed away in Spring of 2013.You may read her full obituary here:http://www.paducahsun.com/view/full_story_free/22748428/article-Martha-Nelson-Thomas


Photo courtesy of Katrina’s Toys

Martha Nelson Thomas doll head

Photo courtesy of Katrina’s Toys


Photo courtesy of Katrina’s Toys

Martha Nelsom Thomas original doll babies came in many sized. Some came with the plastic head and birth certificate only, and some kits came in a plastic envelope with a pre-made doll baby that the buyer need only stuff and stitch toes, fingers, and belly buttons etc. Here are more links to Martha Nelson Thomas original doll baby products: http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=m570.l2736&_nkw=martha+nelson+thomas


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6 Responses to “Who is Martha Nelson Thomas??”

  1. {K|J|P}{a|e}{n|m}{e|a|i} August 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    Thanks, I’ve recently been looking for details about this subject matter for ages and yours is the best I’ve found so far.

    • katrina9799 August 21, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

      Thankyou very much! I searched extensively for an image of Martha herself and unfortunately came up empty-handed:(

      Thanks for visiting my blog!

      • Susan October 20, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

        Check with the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen – they used to sell the original Doll Babies in their Lexington Guild Gallery back in the early 1970s. Martha Nelson Thomas was an early member of the Guild – not sure if she is still affiliated or not. There may also be newspaper coverage of the popular Doll Baby teaparties held at the Guild Gallery – check archives for “The Lexington Herald-Leader” and see what you can find! I and other Kentuckians appreciate your getting the truth of this matter out there.

        BTW, I think the other post here is a robo-post…hope it doesn’t have nasty stuff attached!

  2. Nancy Arnold November 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I have several of the Martha Nelson Thomas heads left over from the 80’s when I made a lot of the dolls…I would like to make more and use these heads, but I cannot find a pattern for the body (mine got lost)…if anyone knows of such a pattern or would like to buy heads, get in touch with me..please use Martha Nelson Thomas inthe subject matter, as I do not respond to e-mails from someone I do not know..thanks

  3. Sarah June 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Martha Nelson Thomas has just recently passed away. Below is a link to the obituary. She was much loved. I am honored to have known a person who touched so many lives in so many important ways. My childhood was very difficult and I didn’t have many friends so my doll babies and stuffed animals were truly my best friends. We will miss Martha, but I am so thankful that I have her beautiful artwork to remember her by every day, as well as the love she gave to her family, including myself when I married in to the family. Please consider donating to Martha’s Squad Biking to Beat Cancer, the team includes one of Martha’s sons, or the Louisville School of Art so that a young artist can receive help with their education. Last but not least, get your dolls out and give them some love and remember how they have impacted your life in memory of Martha.

    Memorial gifts can be made to: Louisville School of Art Alumni Scholarship Fund, c/o Meghan Greenwell, Kentucky School of Art, 845 S. Third St., Louisville, KY 40203; or “Martha’s Squad” riding for Bike to Beat Cancer at biketobeatcancer.org.


  4. Jennifer Delora April 29, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    I have one of her dolls I got as a gift from my parents in about 1980 when I graduated high school. My mom had a cheerleading outfit made for her so she looked like me in HS and a spring outfit including hat! I adore her & even take her to my alumni home football games & she “cheers” with the cheerleaders!! I’d love to share photos. I’m so happy I came about your site after seeing an article on a documentary coming out!! Thank you so much, Jennifer Delora

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