Monday, February 8, 2010

Nancy Ann Storybook dolls


Ms Nancy Ann Abbot, a dress designer of San Franciso, started her own doll company specializing in "wee dolls for wee collectors." Ms Abbott started her venture from her own apartment, and the first dolls were made of bisque. In 1937, she took on a partner, Les Rowland, to help her with marketing these tiny dolls. In 1937, she became incorporated and Nancy Ann Dressed Dolls was born. The company's name was changed to Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls in 1945 and sales topped a million dollars. Bisque dolls were produced from 1936 - 1947, and hard plastic, from 1947 - 1960. Dolls average 5 1/2 inches tall but can be as small as 4 1/2 inches to 7 inches tall.

The earliest bisque dolls had bodies that were made in Japan, but by the time World War II was heating up in Europe, the dolls were being manufactured in California. Each doll during this era was hand painted. Later, the dolls were made from hard plastic. 125 different dolls were marketed, based on nursury rhymes, children's fairy tales, dolls of the world, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, and popular jingles. By the time the 1940's rolled around, the Nancy Ann Storybook doll company produced the largest volume of any dolls manufactured in the United States.

As the dolls gained in popularity, Nancy Ann Abbot expanded her range to include an 18 inch teen Nancy Ann Style Show doll, an eight inch Muffie doll that was a competitor of Ginny, as well as a toddler and baby doll (Debbie and Sue-Sue).

The dolls are actually very good quality and have held up well over the decades.  Nancy Ann changed her dolls' costumes every year, making some dolls difficult to identify without tags. Dolls have distinctive faces, however, and many (but not all) are marked Nancy Ann or Storybook Dolls USA on their backs.

I have two Nancy Ann Storybook dolls, and I know women who own dozens! These adorable dolls are made of hard plastic and have flirty eyes (eyes that move side to side as well as open and close.)  They have soft mohair wigs and their eyelashes and shoes are painted on. At one time, they would have worn hats or ribbons in their hair. Their clothes, while removable, aren't really meant to be removed. The dolls' underclothes are taped to their bodies. I don't know who they were meant to be, as they came to me without boxes or tags. They are, however, very sweet, and they don't take up a lot of room if you have limited space for a doll collection. The earlier bisque dolls will fetch higher prices than the hard plastic dolls at auction, and even moreso if you're fortunate enough to get a tagged doll in its original box.

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