The Terri Lee doll was modeled after a real four-year-old girl from Lincoln, Nebraska. Violet Lee Gradwohl and her niece, artist Maxine Runci, designed the doll after Runci's toddler daughter, Drienne. They named her Terri Lee after the nickname of Gradwohl's daughter. For Gradwohl and Runci, Terri Lee was designed to be a durable companion, a friend who could be carried everywhere, which is exactly what many little girls did with their Terri Lee dolls between 1946 and 1962.

The 16-inch Terri Lee dolls have a plastic or composition head and chubby-toddler bodies. Notable characteristics of a Terri Lee doll include dimples; a closed mouth; big, painted eyes; elaborately detailed clothing; and a fabric daisy on her wrist. Some came with a Girl Scout or Brownie outfit. The doll’s most important contribution to doll design was Gradwohl's patented Celanese yarn doll wig, which could be washed, brushed, and styled.

Eventually, the Terri Lee Company made the doll a brother, Jerri Lee. The model for the male doll was the same as for Terri Lee, and the pair often wore matching outfits. The company also produced a Tiny Terri and Tiny Jerri; African-American dolls named Benji, Patti Jo, and Bonnie Lou; and baby dolls named Linda Lee, Connie Lynn, and So-Sleepy. The Terri Lee Company also made Hispanic and Eskimo dolls, Guadalupe and Nanook. All sold well but the company’s only celebrity doll, Gene Autry, was a bust with children.

Costumes such as bathing suits, furs, and formals were also a part of the product line, as were accessories, which included the Deluxe Wardrobe Set and the Hair Dress Kit. Some of the costumes were even designed to match Steiff stuffed animals. The Terri Lee line was so popular that in 1951, G.H.&E. Freydberg, Inc., made a copy of the doll, which it called Mary Jane.

Between 1961 and 1965, Terri Lee molds were sold to multiple companies, including Magna Enterprises and I & S Industries, which made a talking version of the toy. Stung by competition of its own making, the Terri Lee Company reacquired its doll molds via the courts.

The original dolls made in 1946 and 1947 had composition bodies. Starting in 1948, all Terri Lee dolls were made of plastic. To identify one of these early dolls, look for the words "TERRI LEE" "PAT. PENDING" in raised letters on the doll’s upper back.

In 1997, members of the founders’ family formed Terri Lee Associates and began reproducing some of the company’s most popular dolls, as well as new toys. In 1999, a limited edition, 50th anniversary Terri Lee doll was produced in a run of 5,000.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Terri Lee Doll. 16" W/ 16 Outfits & 6 Pairs Of Shoes + MoreVintage 1950's Terri Lee 16" Hard Plastic Strung Doll Marked Terri LeeTerri Lee...vintage 1940's-50's Clothes Lot...coat & Bonnet, Snow Suit Boots...Tagged Vintage Terri Lee Wool Coat And Hat Hard To Find!Reissue Terri Lee Outfit In BoxVintage C 1950 Painted Eyes Plastic Jerri Lee Pink Sport Suit Bunny 16" Doll Tag1950's Terri Lee Queen Of Dolls Fur Sports Coat & Hat In Original Box 3630 HVintage Terri Lee Tagged Organdy Jumper, Dress And Panties CleanVintage 1950's 16" Blonde Terri Lee Doll With Original Terri Lee PajamasBeautiful Tagged Terri Lee Long Sheer Yellow Lace Trimmed Dress And PantiesVintage C 1950 Painted Eyes Plastic Jerri Lee Train Engineer 16" Doll Tag1966 Jointed Red Hair Tiny Terry Doll Nrfb My Toy Japan Style 125 Tennis Vhtf Vintage 1950's Blonde Terri Lee Doll Lovely And New ConditionTerri Lee Brownie Outfit For Ginny Size DollBeautiful Tagged Terri Lee Pink, Yellow And Black Plaid Short DressVintage Original Untagged Terri Lee Pink Lace Trimmed Chemise/onesieVintage Terri Lee Linda Baby Adorable Tagged Pink & Lace Dress16" Terri Lee 2005 Aa Doll In Complete Original Outfit With ShoesTerri Lee Nude Doll Pat. PendingDoll Terri Lee Competition Mary Jane All Original! Tagged Dress 1950sBed Time For Terri!Terri Lee Goes West DollTiny Terry Lee Doll 10 Inch 1950s1944 Better Big Little Book Terry Lee Flight Officer U.s.a. #1492Terri Lee Doll Size Shorts 16 Inch Doll -redTerri Lee Doll Birthday Party Fun NrfbTerri Lee Doll Patty-jo Nrfb