The beautifully painted faces of Terri Lee dolls look like a portrait in oils gone 3D. They are among the most beautiful dolls ever made, and were produced between 1946 and 1962. According to dollreference.com, Terri Lee Associates was founded by some of the original creators in 1997, and is still making dolls from time to time, including a 1999 50th Anniversary Doll, produced in connection with Knickerbocker. K-Mart had its own version in vinyl, slightly smaller than the original doll, that they began selling in 2001. Terri Lee and her friends and family were the brainchildren of Violet Lee Gradwohl (1927-98).
The dolls, like Barbie, were named after their creator’s daughter, Harriet Wilma Gradwohl, Schrepel, (1927-1998) who went by the name Terri Lee. From 1946-47, Terri Lee dolls were made of composition. This doll, like the later hard plastic dolls, was 16”.
The hard plastic dolls may be the most familiar to collectors. There was also a rare talking doll made in 1960, and the celebrity Gene Autry doll. There was a boy doll, Jerri Lee made during the 1950s, and African American girls Bonnie Lou and Patti Jo. So Later on, K-Mart also produced an African American doll. A 1950s Nanook Eskimo doll was also produced.
Baby dolls, 10 inches, and 9.5 inches were created as well. Linda Baby was the 10” doll, made between 1950 and 1951, while Sleepy at 9.5 inches was made between 1952-58. Baby Connie Lynn, 1956, was 18”.
Terri Lee’s wardrobe was extensive and included Girl Scout and Brownie outfits. One of these included Tiny Teri Lee, who also had Girl Scout and Brownie uniforms. There was also a tiny Jerry Lee.
Like other popular dolls, Terri Lee was copied, and ended up in court defending her copyright in 1954. Terri Lee won a copyright infringement suit against G. H.&E. Freydberg, Inc, and Kathryn Kay Toy Kreations, Inc. Terri Lee thus joins the ranks of Beanie Babies, Gene, Barbie, Raggedy Ann, Molley- E Goldman, Huret, and Rohmer, who have gone to court over copyright and trademark infringement issues.
Terri Lee continues to be popular with collectors today. There was a Terri Lee museum; there are still are newsletters, conventions, and an entire library of books devoted to her.
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