Meet Almanzo Wilder! As a hobby, I customize American Girl dolls into people from history or characters from books. In the post Meet Laura Ingalls, I introduced you to the first doll I customized. As an avid watcher of the TV series Little House on the Prairie and a tourist to many Laura sites, I felt the need to have a Laura doll. My Laura doll has went on many adventures that included a visit to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and she even met Nellie Oleson! But Laura was lonely, she needed Manly, so I created a little Almanzo.
I started with an abused AG Truly Me doll that I found locally for $30. The doll was a classic mold with bright blue eyes. It needed a thorough cleaning and I used many of the methods I shared with you in A Doll Cleaning Tutorial. I bought a blonde, dutch-boy wig to replace the ratty (and sticky😂) original wig.
Since his creation, little Almanzo has been snuggled by Alison Arngrim and met Dean Butler. To read about his adventures visit Lunch With Almanzo Wilder.
Even though I created Almanzo last spring, I am posting this today in honor of his birthday. Today he would have been 163.
Who was the real Almanzo Wilder?
Almanzo Wilder was born February 13, 1857 in upstate New York near the Canadian border. Almanzo was the fifth of six children. His name is pronounced Al-man-zo, not Al-mon-zo like in the Little House on the Prairie TV series. When meeting Dean Butler (Lunch With Almanzo Wilder), he told of how the writers/producers didn’t know the correct pronunciation. After the first episode featuring Almanzo aired, the show was flooded with fans correcting them, but it was too late to change it so they continued with the mispronunciation.
As a boy, Almanzo adored the family’s Morgan horses. He wasn’t allowed to handle the colts because his father thought he would spoil them. At the age of nine, Almanzo’s father felt that he was old enough to handle a spirited young horse and gave him his very own colt. Almanzo named the horse Starlight.
At the age of 13, Almanzo’s family moved to Minnesota. Nine years later, Almanzo, his brother Royal and sister Eliza Jane moved to the Dakota Territory. Their land was in an area that would later be known as De Smet, South Dakota. This is where they met the Ingalls family and Eliza Jane became Laura Ingalls school teacher. Laura remembered Pa saying that “the Wilder boys have the finest horses in the whole country”. Laura was very impressed with the team of Morgans Almanzo owned. When visiting her Home in Mansfield, MO, our tour guide shared with us how Laura and Nellie Owen (the girl Nellie Oleson’s character was based off of) both vied that they would be the first girl to get a ride with Almanzo and that beautiful team of horses.
Almanzo was known for more than just his Morgan horses in the Dakota Territory. He also saved the entire community from starvation during the winter of 1880. A blizzard had hit and families, including the Ingalls, were running out of food. Almanzo and a friend braved the blizzard and drove a wagon 20 miles to a settlement they heard might have extra wheat to sell. They successfully brought home enough to save the starving town.
Almanzo began courting Laura at the age of 25 and she was 15. Laura had a teaching position, where she also boarded, in a neighboring town twelve miles away. Almanzo drove her back and forth weekly while she held the position. Three years later the couple married on August 25, 1885.
Hard times hit the Wilders during the first years of their marriage. Bad weather affected crops causing large debt for the couple. In 1888, both Almanzo and Laura suffered from diphtheria. Almanzo never completely recovered and used a cane for the rest of his life. In the month of August 1889, the Wilder’s infant son died, their crops dried up from drought and their house burned in a fire. No longer able to perform the hard labor of wheat farming, mounting debt from multiple droughts and bearing the grief of the loss of their infant son, the Wilders decided to leave De Smet and move to Missouri.
In Missouri the Wilder’s slowly recovered and found a steady, peaceful life. Laura described their home on Rocky Ridge Farm as her dream house. The home is filled with handmade furniture and other items Almanzo made. He customized the kitchen and other pieces to fit his wife’s small stature.
Almanzo died on October 23, 1949 at the age of 92. He is buried with Laura and their daughter Rose in Mansfield, MO.
“Suffering passes, while love is eternal. That’s a gift you have received from God. Don’t waste it.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder