Mary Poppins Sindy and other Mary Poppins 12 inch Dolls
Mary Poppins (1934) by Pamela Lyndon Travers, OBE
Walt Disney’s famous Mary Poppins film was based on the novels of Australian-British writer P.L. Travers and was a mixture of live action and animation. It was released in 1964 and it was a huge success and was nominated for thirteen oscars at the 37th Academy Awards in 1965, winning five, including Best Actress for Julie Andrews. Merchandising was extensive including crockery, games, puzzles, brunch bags, money boxes, paper dolls and photo albums. Several companies were licensed to produce Mary Poppins 12″ teenage fashion dolls across the world. Two of these dolls, in Australia and NewZealand, used Sindy as Mary.
This page will show the four Mary Poppins 12 inch teenage dolls from the 1960s that we know of:
- New Zealand’s Line Bros (NZ) Ltd Mary Poppins
- Australia’s Tuff Toys Mary Poppins
- America’s Horsman Dolls Inc. Mary Poppins, and
- Canada’s Reliable Toy Co. Limited Mary Poppins.
Perhaps somewhat suprisingly, the U.K. did not have a comparable doll.
The 'Sindy' Mary Poppins
1965 Sindy Dolls
Before we talk about the Sindy Mary Poppins dolls, it should be borne in mind that at this time Australia and New Zealand had very different Sindys to those found here in the UK. In the United Kingdom Sindy Dolls were being manufactured at the Merton factory in South London, England. But according to David Fear who was the Pedigree Product Manager at the time, there was an overlap of some 18 months where Sindys were made in both Merton, England and in Hong Kong (12S Magazine, edn Number 6, page 9).
In Australia, it made more commercial sense to import Sindy dolls straight from Hong Kong right from the beginning in 1964, rather than ship them over from England. The demand for Sindy dolls was enormous and it is likely that some of these Hong Kong Sindy dolls also ended up in the European market to makeup order shortfalls that could not be completely fulfilled by the Merton factory.
In New Zealand, dolls were partly manufactured in New Zealand with some parts imported from the Hong Kong factories and assembled locally to comply with New Zealand’s Market Protection Policies.
So, for reference here is a short summary of the usual Sindy dolls that could be found in each country in 1965 which is when we see the Sindy Mary Poppins. The list below excludes the Mini Sindys which are also 1965 dolls and were made in Hong Kong.
Australia (and possibly Europe)
Made in Hong Kong on back, no head markings with bending vinyl legs. Both normal size and very hard small heads were sold on full size bodies.
No markings on head or body with bending vinyl legs. Both normal size and very hard small heads were sold on full size bodies. Torso may be yellow in colour.
United Kingdom (and Europe)
Made in England on head, no body markings with bending vinyl legs.
New Zealand's Sindy Mary Poppins
In New Zealand, Lines Bros (NZ) Ltd were the sole licensee to produce Mary Poppins dolls, and in 1965 Sindy took the lead role in “Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins Complete with Working Dress and Apron by Pedigree”. Although there is no mention of Sindy on the packaging, these dolls were standard New Zealand Sindy dolls. They have no markings on the hard vinyl head or the body and have the firm vinyl arms and legs with internal wire armature that allows them to be posed, although over time, the vinyl often hardens so the limbs no longer bend. The doll’s torso is often more yellow in colour than pink.
Mary Poppins in the 1966 Tri-ang New Zealand catalogue.
This Mary Poppins had an outfit which consisted of a long white and dark blue striped cotton work dress with lace trim at the neck and cuffs, a white cotton bib apron with red printed ‘Mary Poppins’ logo on the bib, black sheer Sindy nylon stockings, black plastic shoes with bow detail, a dark blue felt coat with two blue buttons at the front, a blue flocked hard plastic hat decorated with a small bunch of plastic flowers and held under the bun with elastic, and a carpet bag with gold handles.
Also included was her cotton travelling dress with a white bodice and long mauve skirt. It was trimmed at the neck with lace and was decorated with pink velvet ribbon with pearl stud. The doll wore white panties.
We believe this fashion to be the same as some first issue Mary Poppins dolls by the US company Horsman Dolls Inc (see more below).
According to the advert Mary came wearing her sleeveless, cotton “travelling dress” with a white bodice and long mauve skirt. It was trimmed at the neck with lace and was decorated with pink velvet ribbon with pearl stud. It fastened at the back with two white buttons. Variations of the velvet ribbon have been spotted and we have seen this dress with a much paler pink velvet ribbon.
The New Zealand Mary Poppins hat was hard to the touch and was made of flocked blue plastic. It was decorated with a bunch of coloured plastic flowers. It had a hat strap which could be tucked under her hair bun at the back.
Mary’s travelling bag was a woven carpet bag with brass ring handles which was attached to the bag with an embossed gold tape made of plastic. Attached to the tape was a metal stud fastener to close the bag and at the base was a cardboard rectangle to shape the bag.
There appears to be two types of black shoes found with the boxed Sindy Mary Poppins. Shown above left are a pair of hard plastic flat shoes with a moulded bow detail and shown above right Sindy’s 1960s black lace-ups. We would be grateful to know what shoes came with any other New Zealand Mary Poppins found in their boxes or known to be with orginal outfits.
These dolls were packaged in a cardboard tray with cellophane wrap, and as noted above there is no mention of Sindy on the packaging. They are highly sought after but are difficult to find, especially in good condition. While a few mint examples are known, we are yet to see one completely Never Removed From Box (NRFB) with the cellophane still in place. We would love to hear from anyone who has a NRFB example or can offer any further information on these dolls.
Australia's Sindy Mary Poppins
The only thing to set this doll apart from other Sindy dolls of the time is her long, centre parted, very dark brown hair. The hair is rooted only around the sides of the head and on mint dolls, is wound up into a neat low bun.
A mint Mary’s beautiful face
The doll wears a long red and off-white striped short sleeved dress and an off-white apron with the words “Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins” inside an umbrella printed in red on the apron skirt. The neck and sleeves of the dress were finished with a matching cotton binding and it fastened at the back with two metal snap fasteners. The apron fastened simply at the back of the waist with a bowline knot. Black Sindy sheer stockings and black Sindy lace-up shoes completed the outfit.
America's Mary Poppins
Looking quite different to Sindy, the US Horsman Dolls Inc company produced a series of Mary Poppins dolls from 1964 to 1969 and she was reissued again in 1973. Of a similar proportion to Sindy, her 1960s body and legs are hard hollow plastic and her arms are a soft vinyl. These dolls are generally marked with an ‘H’ on the back of their heads. Mary’s head is quite soft and she has pursed coral red lips and pale blue side-glance eyes.
Horsman Mary Poppins shown in the May 1965 issue of ‘Playthings’
The Horsman Mary Poppins had a much longer lifespan than the other Marys and so there were several Mary Poppins issues. We have seen variations within these; including for example dolls with fringes (bangs), slightly different face molds and flesh tints, and different lipstick colours.
It is possible that the New Zealand Mary Poppins and the first Horsman Mary Poppins had outfits made in part by the same factory. Again, David Fear notes that the Hong Kong factories Pedigree used were manufacturing for a number of different companies (12S Magazine, edn Number 6, page 9).
We believe that the very early dolls wore the same garments as the New Zealand Mary Poppins doll: the travelling dress with white bodice and mauve skirt and a pale pink velvet ribbon at the neck with pearl stud, a dark blue coat with two buttons at the front, a blue flocked hard plastic hat decorated with a small bunch of plastic flowers and held under the bun with elastic, and the woven carpet bag with brass gold handles.
She wore white nylon panties trimmed with lace around the legs.
The most common doll seems to be the single doll in the travelling dress, coat and felt hat shown above.
However, that very early version of the outfit, which was like the NZ Mary outfit, seems to be harder to find. The more common version, which is shown above right, is the travelling dress with white bodice and mauve skirt, with a lilac or pink velvet ribbon stitched at the neck without the pearl. A mid-blue coat with two buttons at the front and a softer blue felt hat decorated with a small bunch of fabric flowers, and held under the bun with elastic (shown right).
She still came with the woven patterned carpet bag with brass gold handles, the pink plastic working umbrella with a grey/blue plastic ruffle frill and white wooden handle, the black knitted ribbed stockings and black boots with three molded bows down the front. She also wore the white nylon panties trimmed with lace around the legs.
A 1965 Wardrobe Giftset
A 1966 Wardrobe Giftset
The advert above refers to “six styles” of Mary Poppins and shows the window box giftset.
These giftsets appear to have been hugely popular and there are many variations. Perhaps like the early 1960s Sindy outfits, Horsman used more than one manufacturer to meet demand.
There is a lovely deviation of the ‘Jolly Holiday’ dress where the pink velvet flowers on the dress are replaced with velvet ribbon, and on the hat by smaller bunches of flowers. This version had a straight skirt (shown above).
We have also seen variations in the colour of the striped working dress from very pale aqua to dark blue, and there seems to be several versions of the apron: a lower neckline, ribbon trim at the neck, and variations in the size of the logo print. The colour of the coat and umbrella may vary also.
1965 was a big year for Horsman as it was their 100th Anniversary. As well as the window box presentation boxes shown in the advert above, the set was also available in a plain brown box stamped in blue as shown above.
Mary was also packaged with just this ‘Jolly Holiday’ outfit with her white satin and velveteen flower trim dress, white straw hat with pink velvet flower decoration, white knitted stockings and boots, and the pretty mauve-blue and pink ruffle umbrella.
In 1966 another giftset was issued which saw Mary in her ‘travelling’ dress and coat outfit and which included her small charges, Jane and Michael Banks. Michael wears black velvet shorts with gold button, yellow shirt with white collar and mauve tie with gold button, white socks and black shoes. Jane wears a pink dress with mauve lace trim and purple velvet belt, white socks, white shoes and purple hair ribbon. Jane and Michael were also sold without the Mary Poppins doll.
A single doll in outdoor dress and the giftset with additional outfits were reissued for a Horsman 50th Anniversary in 1973.
This time the doll had stiffer arms, had paler pink lips and her hair was loose. The travelling dress no longer had a ribbon tie and both dress and coat are tagged made in Taiwan. The hat was now decorated with a single large pink flower (dark pink and light pink versions can be found) and lacked an elastic band. The umbrella was now made from cardboard. The carpet bag attached to the doll’s wrist by black elastic instead of gold brass rings. The hat was now decorated with a single large pink flower (dark pink and light pink versions can be found) and lacked an elastic band. The umbrella was now made from cardboard. The carpet bag attached to the doll’s wrist by black elastic instead of gold brass rings.
There was also a reissued giftset.
In this set, the working dress has wider, sharper turquoise blue stripes and the sleeves were sewn on the diagonal and without lace on the ends of the sleeves. The apron is now trimmed in red stitching. The bodice and flowers of the Jolly Holiday dress are either a deep or very pale pink, and the green buttons on the dress and hat are not the same shiny metallic looking ones as used in the 1960s.
One of the most striking aspects of the Horsman Mary Poppins is the sheer number of variations. This is not unsurprising given that she was hugely popular and was made for a number of years. If you are a doll collector who enjoys collecting variations, then the Horsman Mary Poppins maybe just the girl for you. Shown below is a wide range of this Mary’s variations.
Panties, stockings and footwear
Working (Nurse) dresses and Aprons
Jolly Holiday (Party) Dresses and Hats (Party Bonnets)
Jolly Holiday Hats
Jolly Holiday Straight Skirts
Reliable Dolls Catalogue 1967
Canada's Mary Poppins
Canada also had a Mary Poppins doll made by the Reliable Toy Company Limited of Toronto, Canada. This doll shares a face sculpt with Tammy, and is very similar to Sindy. She is colloquially known as the ‘Tammy Mary Poppins’. This Mary Poppins appears to have been issued slightly later in 1966/67.
She was sold wearing an ankle length, sleeveless, red cotton dress with a red embroidery thread trim around the neck and armholes. It fastened at the back with two large white metal open backed fasteners. Over her dress she wore a mid-length dark collarless blue coat lined at the front with red cotton and which fastened with one red button. Around her neck she wore a white nylon net scarf woven with a flower motif.
For her head, she wore a soft blue cotton hat with an attached elasticated pleated brim. Her hat was decorated with red gosgrain bow and a bunch of red fabric flowers at the front with the same netting as her scarf stitiched into a large bow at the back.
For her feet she wore short white plastic molded ankle button boots.
A red fabric dolly bag with a silk cord handle and a stylised red plastic umbrella with a handle and wrist loop completes the fashion.
There are some slight variations with this Mary.
Unfortunately we don’t have these dolls to show you and we would be grateful to hear from anyone who has these dolls and/or outfits who would be willing to show them in the museum.
Canadian Mary is harder to find than the US Horsman Mary, but does come up for sale in online auction sites from time to time.
Our Sindy Museum would like to thank Jennifer from Australia and Martha from the U.S.A. for their wonderful help and dedication in updating this page.