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”)

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    

1950's/1960' Terri Lee Flesh Colored Hard Plastic 16'' Jointed Doll #pj28Vintage Blonde Tiny Terri Lee In Dress Set W/ Daisy, Saddle Shoes, Box, HairnetVintage 1950's Terri Lee Doll 16" Plastic With Ash Blonde Hair & WardrobeVintage Ginger Girl Scout Doll Terri Lee MibVintage Platinum Blonde Terri Lee Doll 1955-58 Tiny Terri Lee Walker 10" Doll V. Good Shape. Dark Mohair Wig. Vintage Terri Lee "fashions" Pink Tutu Like Dress, Etc In Box.tagged From 1950'sVintage Pat. Pending Terri Lee - Tagged Dress -pretty Doll1950's/1960' Terri Lee Flesh Colored Hard Plastic 16'' Jointed Doll #pj24Vintage Terri Lee Shirt And Skirt.tagged From 1950'sVintage Terri Lee Blue School Dress. Tagged From 1950'sVintage Terri Lee Navy Sailor Outfit, Purse And Shoes. Tagged From 1950'sVintage 16"terri Lee 50's Tagged Yellow Gown Outfit W/panties, Hat, ExcellentTerri Lee 50th Anniversary Doll In Original BoxVintage Marked 16"terri Lee Doll With Original Marked OutfitDoll Terri Lee Clothing Tiny Terri Lee Red And White Stripped Dress Tagged 1950sVintage Terri Lee Confirmation Dress. Tagged From 1950'sVintage 1950s Terri Lee 16" Doll Clothes Bird Design DressVintage 1950s Original Matching Dresses For Terri Lee And Tiny Terri Lee DollsVintage 50s 16" Platinum Haired Terri Lee Doll + Tagged OutfitVintage Terri Lee Salmon Colored Bodysuit & Skirt. Tagged From 1950'sVintage 2000 Reproduction Terri Lee Plastic Doll W Ice Skates - Christmas 15"Vintage Terri Lee Fashions Majorette Costume #3560 H Box Only!Terri Lee Millenium Bride Doll #320001Vintage 16" Terri Lee Doll Lounging Pajamas Pjs Excellent Condition TaggedAdorable Vintage Original 1953 Terri Lee Look Alike "mary Jane" 16 Inch DollTerri Lee Doll Dress, Rumba Panties Clothes Handmade For Vintage Terri Lee Doll