Ever since Hawaii became a popular tourist attraction in the early 1900s, the Hula Girl has been a symbol of the state of islands. Visitors loved to collect the Hula Girl Doll and bring her home as a souvenir or gift for friends and family.
During the ’20s and ’30s, some of the earliest hula dolls were made of bisque or redware, a clay material lacking any glaze. Dolls were hand painted, donning grass skirts and flower-patterned halters or a leis made of cloth flowers.
In the ’40s and ’50s, some of Hawaii’s best artists, like Delee and Julene & Hakata, created some of the finest Hawaiian hula dolls. These are still some of the most sought after hula dolls by Hawaiiana collectors today.
The Hula Girl Nodder, or Dashboard Doll, was created in the 1950s. The influx of American soldiers into Hawaii during World War II, along with the visiting tourists after the war, helped make this doll one of the most popular souvenirs of all time. In fact, the Dancing Hula Girl Dashboard Doll became so popular that factories in Japan capitalized on the craze and began producing them in bulk.
The dashboard doll was made of plastic and had springs in her legs so that she could wiggle her hips as the car moved. She was made in different versions and sizes. The ukulele pose and hands-in-the-hair pose were the most common.
The original Hula Dashboard Doll had a hole in the bottom where a magnet could be inserted so that the doll could be attached to the metal dashboards of carss. California surfers and beach-goers were the first to adopt on the fad en masse, and the Hula Girl Dancing Dashboard Doll officially became a part of American Pop Culture.
The Dancing Hula Girl Doll is still a popular dashboard accessory today, although she is attached with double sided tape instead of a magnet. She still wiggles her hips (or holds her ukulele) and will always bring a smile to the faces of those who see her.