Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Buddy Lee

Buddy Lee started out as an advertising mascot back in the 1920's, for the Lee Jeans company. He was initially made of composition and was used to model Lee's line of clothing. After his debut in Lee's flagship store in Dayton, Ohio, Buddy became nationally distributed, and eventually became the second most popular doll of that time.

Buddy was available in several different outfits in addition to his traditional dungarees. He also came dressed as a cowboy, a Coca-Cola delivery man, Jiffy Steamer man, Phillips 66 gas station attendant, football player, John Deere man, and a railroad engineer. In 1949, Buddy was manufactured in hard plastic. Both the hard plastic and composition Buddys are sought by collectors.

Buddy suspiciously looks like he was modeled after the most popular doll of his day - Rose O'Neill's Kewpie doll. With his watermelon rind grin, round head, and side glancing eyes, maybe they are cousins.

The original Buddy Lee was discontinued in 1962; however, there are modern reproduction Buddy Lees available, made from the original mold and with new uniforms. They are made of a more modern form of composition, and, while maybe not as valuable as the originals, are still collectible and delightful to view.

Buddy had a revival in 2000, when he was brought back as a marketing mascot for Lee dungarees, proving that when you get something right, it never goes out of fashion.

My Buddy Lee is the hard plastic version from the 1950's. He wears his dungarees branded with the Lee / Sanfordized label, and a matching jacket and hat. His shoes are painted on. Around his neck is a red bandana. Buddy is all original and is marked Buddy Lee on his back. Buddy is only one of three "boy" dolls in my collection.

Check out this Buddy Lee Action Hero ad from the early 2000's:

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