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Who is Martha Nelson Thomas?

31 Mar

Have you ever seen a doll head, like the one below, 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: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/louisville/obituary.aspx?pid=165037699

Please visit her facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/Martha-Nelson-Thomas-Doll-Artist-741241162557648/

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