Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, which were created in 1978 and quickly catapulted into the arms and hearts of children everywhere, have been considered classic for decades. Even if you never owned one, you certainly know someone who did. Yet, there’s something about them that very few people know.
As it turns out, those adorable, “adoptable” dolls with their round, dimpled faces actually have a pretty dark backstory. Their parent company has done its best to sweep their shameful scandal under the rug—but now it’s finally being exposed…
When Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were introduced in 1978, they were an immediate hit. Noted for their adorable smiles and “desire” to be adopted by children, they were suddenly everywhere you looked!
Their prominence on the toy market was so abrupt that consumers never had the time of day to even think about where they came from. And perhaps that was what their creator, 21-year-old Xavier Roberts, had planned all along…
Truth be told, the Cabbage Patch Kids actually had a rather shameful backstory that Xavier and company executives have been attempting to keep secret all these years. But now, they’re finally being held accountable for what they did.
When Xavier first began developing the dolls, they were actually called the “Little People.” It was at that time that he developed the concept that the dolls could be “adopted” rather than purchased. It was an idea that no one had ever heard before!
At first, the dolls were only sold in Xavier’s own gift shop, but eventually they got their own store, the Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. After that, the young man’s business began to quickly blossom…
It wasn’t until four years later, in 1982, that he began to license out a smaller version of the toys to a company called Coleco. Xavier gave the dolls the Cabbage Patch Kids monicker and developed their unusual background story.
Xavier’s idea for the dolls’ story was this: when he was just 10 years old, he’d accidentally discovered the kids while following a BunnyBee. After that, it had become his mission to help find all the Cabbage Patch Kids loving homes. But Xavier had a dirty secret…
Apparently Xavier’s dolls weren’t as original as he’d led people to believe. In fact, there was already another line of dolls on the market that was practically identical to the Cabbage Patch Kids!
Several years before Xavier first introduced his product, an artist named Martha Nelson Thomas had already begun crafting similar dolls—which she called Doll Babies—to sell at local arts and crafts fairs.
One day, Xavier stumbled upon Martha’s dolls at a craft fair and was so smitten with them that he purchased several for himself. As Martha soon learned, he was more than just a fan of her idea…
Xavier loved Martha’s idea so much that he wanted to steal it. That included many of the details behind Martha’s Doll Babies, as well. For example, people didn’t buy Martha’s Doll Babies, they “adopted” them—and they came complete with a certificate and all!
Xavier brought the dolls back to his gift shop and began “re-adopting” them out to children, unbeknownst to Martha, at a higher price. Not only were the dolls not his own creation, but he’d completely stolen her business model, too!
Martha had already garnered lots of positive attention when she first introduced Doll Babies in the early 1970s. Right away, people could tell she really cared about the product she created.
Speaking of her love and dedication for her dolls, Martha’s longtime friend Guy Mendes said, “Martha was basically flat-out reinventing the doll. The Doll Babies were her brood. She shopped for them. She dressed them. They were expressions of her.”
When Martha caught wind of what Xavier was doing, she visited his gift shop, saw how much he was charging people, and demanded he give them back. In response, he wrote her an angry letter saying he’d sell his own dolls if she didn’t allow him to sell hers.
And so, not long after that, Xavier began selling the “Little People” dolls that launched his own career. Sadly, he was about to make a fortune on an idea that was never truly his…
Unfortunately, caught up in the passion of making her dolls, Martha never filed for a copyright before Xavier stole her idea. In the late 1970s, however, she did file a lawsuit against him, even though it didn’t go to trial until 1985.
Thankfully, the court ultimately ruled in Martha’s favor and she and Xavier ultimately came to an undisclosed settlement agreement. “She couldn’t tell us what the settlement was but she said her children would go to college,” her friend Guy recalled.
In the end, it wasn’t about money for Martha. She was passionate about creating dolls children could adopt and play with. Her dolls would never be as famous or lucrative as the Cabbage Patch Kids, but she at least had her integrity (and some much-deserved credit).
Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Xavier. He’d taken his idea from someone else without permission. He might have made a good living doing what he did, but at the end of the day, the idea wasn’t his—and now everybody knows.
Funny enough, back before TV reigned supreme, playtime really was a sort of lawless activity. kids would climb trees, mess around with fireworks, and stay out after dark. And right to that end, nobody was too worried about rules or safety regulations when it came to games or toys, either!
Rollerblade Barbie: The wheels on Barbie and Ken’s skates work like a lighter’s mechanism, so if they rolled over anything flammable both Barbie and her owner could get seriously burned.
Slip ‘N Slides: It is obvious why Slip ‘N Slides seem fun, but that’s also why they’re pretty dangerous. They’re nice for cooling off and sliding around in the summer, but sending kids flying down wet hills has danger written all over it.
Easy Bake Ovens: Every kid likes toys and every kid likes sweet treats, but it doesn’t seem very safe to let small children handle hot objects by themselves. Since they first came out, these ovens have been made a lot safer, but we still recommend adult supervision.
Creepy Crawlers: The idea was to make molds of insects and bake them to life in the oven, but the result was chemically burned fingers and melted plastic all over the floor.
Trampolines: Yeah, let’s launch kids into the sky. People fall off the sides of these things, land wrong, the springs break, and you can even accidentally (or on purpose) catapult someone off of it.
Aquadots: This creative toy makes different shapes out of colored beads, however, the beads were apparently coated in very strong sedatives; so when Aqua Dots fanatics began losing consciousness, the toy had to be recalled in 2007.
Sky Rangers Radio-Controlled-Airplanes: Sky Rangers tended to explode when they crashed, and kids tend to lack the finger dexterity to control flying objects. These caused over 50 injuries before they were recalled.
Snack Time Cabbage Patch Kids: This beloved children’s toy received an upgrade where you could feed it snacks and it would chomp down whatever you gave it. Sadly, the Kids couldn’t tell carrots from fingers or hair from spaghetti and went off the market.
Sky Dancers: They could only do one thing, but they were pretty popular in the early 2000s. You place the fairy on the base, pull a string, and she twirls into the sky. However, if you held the toy too close to your face, it could cause some serious eye damage.
Toy Crossbows: If there are two words that definitely don’t belong together, it’s “toy” and “crossbow.” Despite their small size, their shots could have quite an impact, and once kids started loading toothpicks into them, the game was over.
Aqua Leisure Baby Inflatables: The leg straps on Aqua Leisure were prone to breaking, leaving the babies to slide out from underneath and putting them all in danger of drowning.
Austin Magic Pistol: This weapon that should have never been given to a child used calcium carbide to launch ping pong balls. But, if any water got into the gun, it would literally explode.
Moon Boots: The problem with these stylish stompers? Well, much like regular platform shoes, one wrong move can twist your ankles or make you kiss asphalt. Just stay on the ground, folks.
Magnetix: Lego is incredibly successful because kids love to build and create, so naturally, RoseArt execs thought, kids would love building objects out of magnets…until the magnets started coming loose and children began choking!
Mini Hammocks: The idea of a mini-hammock was that it was light and easy to store, so it didn’t come with any spreader bars, meaning the net could twist and turn and trap — or suffocate — a child.
CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit: Want to know who ate the last of the cookies? Who came into your room while you were at school? You could use the CSI Fingerprint Examination Kit to find out…except it contained a powder full of asbestos. Recall!
Swing Wing: This helmet was designed and sold to kids in the 1960s; while the youths loved it, it was quickly recalled because, after all, nothing says “fun” like a cerebral hemorrhage and spinal injuries!
Hoverboards: A family in Louisiana lost their home to the flames after charging their 12-year-old son’s new toy. These vehicles can also explode right under your feet!
Lawn darts: Imagine darts, but they’re huge and being thrown around by kids in your backyard. Yeah. It’s harrowing. Throwing big sharp objects through the air is just no safe way to play.
Click-clacks: The two acrylic balls attached to the strings slap against each other and, well, click-clack. However, they weren’t always made sturdily enough and would sometimes shatter, shooting shrapnel towards the clacker’s eyes.