Life | 90s | 80s

The Cabbage Patch Kids Scandal They've Been Trying To Sweep Under The Rug

Basically everyone had a Cabbage Patch Kid growing up. They were hugely popular, so even if you didn't own one, you were at least familiar with them.

Cabbage Patch Kids

Their round faces and big eyes were so distinctive from other dolls available at the time. They also had their own little certificates with their name and birthday which meant that each one was unique. However, it turns out that there was a big secret behind one of America's favorite dolls.

Cabbage Patch Kids were created by Xavier Roberts in 1978. He was only 21 when he started developing the dolls that were originally called "The Little People".

They were similar to the Cabbage Patch Kids you know now, in that instead of purchasing one, you would "adopt" one. They were made using a needle molding technique and were each completely unique.

They were sold at Xavier Roberts gift shop, then later were brought to their first store: Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia.

In 1982, Roberts gave the dolls the new name of Cabbage Patch Kids when he began to license smaller versions out to a toy company called Coleco. The dolls started to be sold with the story of their discovery, which stated that a 10-year-old boy named Xavier Roberts discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids when he was following a "BunnyBee" behind a waterfall. He found the magical babies being born so he wanted to help them find good families.


They have had a few different companies in control of production over the years. Once Coleco went bankrupt in 1988, Hasbro took over. In 1994, Mattel bought the rights and tried to make some big changes.

Cabbage Patch Kids are still popular to this day, but it turns out their history is a little more controversial than you'd think.

For such a cute doll, there was actually a huge controversy surrounding the company. Roberts may have started making these toys back in 1978, but it turns out they were not the first of their kind.

An American artist, Martha Nelson Thomas, actually began creating a soft sculpted doll in the early 70s for art and crafts fairs. They were called Doll Babies and she would have the people "adopt" them instead of purchasing them. Sound familiar?

Guy Mendes, a friend of Nelson Thomas, said that "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."

Nelson Thomas's husband, Tucker Thomas, said that Roberts found the dolls at a craft fair and "adopted" a few for himself. He started adopting them out of his gift shop without her permission.

She was unhappy with how much he was charging for them and so she went and took them back. After this happened, he wrote her a letter that apparently said that if he couldn't sell her dolls he would make his own. It didn't take long for Roberts to release his first dolls and that's when the controversy began.

"He took her idea and he made a fortune," Mendes said.

Roberts admitted that dolls were inspired by Nelson Thomas's creation, but claimed the design was his own. She had never filed a copyright on the design, but in 1975 she did file a lawsuit.

It took 10 years to actually make it to trial, but it finally settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 1985. Mendes said that "She couldn't tell us what the settlement was but she said her children would go to college."

Thomas said, "we didn't want the conflict to go on forever. That's not a good way to live." While they never had the financial success of the Cabbage Patch Kids, Thomas says he was happy with his life as it was. He said, “Martha and I had a wonderful life together. It wasn’t elaborate but it was wonderful. I’m not going to trade in that life for a few dollars.”

Did you know that there was such a huge controversy around one of the most popular toys? Share if you owned a Cabbage Patch Kid!