Would you be surprised or not at all surprised if I told you that every single thing sold by American Girl is made in China? At USA Love List, we generally prefer to focus on the positive. We could keep ourselves busy all day long griping about the American companies giving their jobs to workers overseas, but we all know that story and it is not uplifting to read. But the absurdity of American Girl, and the reaction of their staff when I mentioned it, have stayed with me.
Would you be surprised if I told you that every single thing sold by American Girl is made in China?
Here is the scene: my newly minted 11-year-old daughter and I woke up in the dark December morning of her birthday to make the pilgrimage to her mecca, New York City, specifically the three story flagship of American Girl. It is home to all of her favorite characters, the ubiquitous (in her circles) 18 inch dolls, the beautiful clothes matching dolls with their girls, the intricate accessories covering every historical period and recreational interest. She had promised to exchange the expense of a birthday party for a free-wheeling afternoon at the American Girl Place.
We fought our way through the Manhattan Christmas crowds and through the doors at American Girl. Bright colors, beautiful dolls, and giddy children were everywhere. And there in front of me was a concierge desk. My daughter ran off while I contemplated what I could possibly need from a concierge in a doll store. Inexplicably, three suited staff members waited, looking at me expectantly. Suddenly, there was only one thing I wanted to know. I strode over purposefully. “Hi,” I said brightly but firmly. “Is there anything in the American Girl store that is made in America?” They answered immediately, almost in unison, almost as if they had been asked many times before: No. Nothing. All made in China. Suddenly, a more senior staff member and a manager appeared from the back as if they too had been waiting and listening. They concurred, not a single thing in three floors. It is all made in China.
“Is there anything in the American Girl store that is made in America?” They answered immediately, almost in unison, almost as if they had been asked many times before: No. Nothing. All made in China.
There was the briefest awkward silence before one of them said, “It's like everything else in America. Everything is made in China!” They all jumped on the bandwagon, “Nobody makes anything anymore!” and “What are you gonna do about it… it's just the way the world works.” and “You can't buy anything made in the USA anymore if you tried,” and “we wonder why there aren't any jobs anymore but that's life.” I stared at them. I simply said, “Well, that's not true, but thank you,” and walked away.
I stared at them. I simply said, “Well, that's not true, but thank you,” and walked away.
I knew these store workers were not the decision makers. None of them were there when the Pleasant Company of Minnesota, now owned by Mattel, chose to set up manufacturing in Germany and then move to China to make a line of dolls claiming to be be American and celebrating United States history. I wasn't going to plead my case to them or tell them about the companies I am reading about and talking to every day who really are making the choice to manufacture at home. But it was the reaction of these people, hard-working store staff of a massive and profitable American company, indeed one actually named AMERICAN Girl, who shocked me the most with their flip resignation… “What are you gonna do about it… it's just the way the world works. You can't buy anything made in the USA anymore if you tried.”
It is just not true. The more we look around, the more we see that yes, there are many, many outstanding products and gifts already being made in the USA. There are companies making decisions every day about where to make their products and which town's or country's employees will get the job to do it. There are businesses working really, really hard to create jobs and set up new operations here at home in places where there are none, often at the expense of profits, because they are investing in their country and their home communities. Please, support these businesses. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. Contact your favorite companies and ask in your favorite stores for American products and for displays that make it easy for you to buy American.
How do you think this story will end? Do you want me to say that I grabbed my daughter by the elbow, marched right out of the store and taught her an important lesson in life? I did not. We had a fine afternoon of shopping, getting her doll's ears pierced, and having tea in the cafe. But I felt satisfied that I had asked the question on my mind. I knew that I would write this article. She and I talked about the issue on the way home. When she opened the birthday gifts from her friends, she immediately noted the country of origin on each one and celebrated when three of them were American-made. We all try to make a difference, to influence the things we care about, little by little, in whatever way we can. I'm grateful for our readers; I know you care about this issue too. And for the record, it's not true. There are plenty of excellent things made in the USA. Let's find them together.
Check out actual sources for American made play toys and dolls.
American made doll clothing for the American Girl shown below is from Fairy Finery.