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Catalog Number 13244-440-(1-2)
Title Terri Lee, Package, Envelope, Squaw Skirt and Blouse
Object Name Package, Product
Description Terri Lee Fashions original packaging for a Terri Squaw Skirt and Blouse costume; the costume is not inside. The packaging is a large, rectangle shaped envelope with a clear plastic window in the front to show off the costume. The front has a blue background with various colored drawings. There are three drawings of Terri, one in the upper left corner in a green bathing suit, one in the upper right corner in a "queen" ballgown and crown, and one in the bottom left corner in a pink coat and skirt with a yellow straw hat. There is also a drawing of Jerri on the middle left in a full cowboy outfit. There are various drawings of clothing articles across the bottom of the package, including saddle shoes, a small purse, a green dress, yellow bunny slippers, a fur cap lined with pink satin, a red dress, and a set of gloves and a muff. There is a drawing of a Terri wardrobe at the center right, with various articles of clothing inside. On the top is "Terri Lee FASHIONS" and "DESIGNED FOR Terri Lee QUEEN OF DOLLS." On the bottom left corner is a white price label for the costume that reads "TERRI LEE FASHIONS/ 3530 S Terri-Squaw Skirt/ & Blouse $1.75." There is also a small loose piece of white paper inside the envelope that reads "dress navy blue/ top white blue polka/ dots - white under/ pants with blue/ dots." On the back is a colored drawing of a Western desert scene with a drawing of Terri in a cowgirl costume. Above her reads, "A NEW ERA IN DOLLS Created by Terri Lee," with "LIFELIKE," "LOVABLE," "UNBREAKABLE," "BEAUTIFUL COSTUMES," "LIFETIME GUARENTEE" under the title. There is a box on the seal to be filled out if you want to join the Terri Lee Friendship Club. On the bottom of the envelope back reads "HOME OFFICE/ Terri Lee SALES CORPORATION, APPLE VALLEY, CALIFORNIA." There is also a very small red label on the right bottom corner of the packaging that reads " TENSION ENVELOPS" in red ink with an unidentifiable logo at the center.
There is also a piece of paper inside the envelope that reads "Admission Card/ to/ Terri Lee Doll Hospital, Apple Valley, Calif./ If your Terri gets sick, put this card and fee in/ an envelope, attach it securely to the outside/ of the package, and mail to the above address./ Be sure your name and address is printed/ plainly on the card and package. Send your/ dolly UNDRESSED so the Doctor can put her right to bed." Check boxes are next to the following three options 1) "Please make my dolly like new again. Clean,/ repaint, and give her a new assembly rub/ber band. Give her a new (Color..........)/ Wig, too. The $3.50 fee is enclosed." 2) "Just put her together again with a new assebley rubber band. Here is the $1.00 handling fee./ (or)" 3) " Repair her broken ..................FREE, because the plastic body of my "Terri Lee" doll is guarenteed for life." "Return her to me, Postpaid, at:/ Name................/Address................/City..........Zone.................State.........." "(Note: "Terri Lee's plastic body is guarenteed/ for life (under normal usage) against breakage./ The Guarantee does not apply to wigs.)"
Year Range from 1952
Year Range to 1962
Material Paper, Plastic
Made Terri Lee Inc.
Place of Origin USA: California, Apple Valley
Height (in) 0.394
Length (in) 9
Width (in) 12
History The Terri Lee doll company was founded in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1946. The business started as a partnership between Maxine Runci, a sculptor and painter, and her aunt, Violet Gradwohl. Maxine modeled the doll after her toddler aged daughter, Drienne, and the doll was named after Violet's daughter, who was called "Terri Lee." Their relationship deteriorated early in the company's history, and Violet eventually took over the business. The first dolls were produced in the Gradwohl's Lincoln kitchen, and then in space rented at the Nebraska State Building at 116 South 15th Street. Women were hired to work from their homes, making wigs and sewing doll clothing. The business grew quickly and by Christmas of 1946, the doll appeared in the Montgomery Ward's catalog.

The first dolls were made of "composition," made of ground up corncobs (Because of shortages in sawdust due to World War II). The hygroscopic nature of this material was problematic. Before the fall of 1947, the company was making dolls out of several types of experimental ethyl cellulose plastics. These early plastic dolls were painted with a flesh colored varnish. By 1950, the dolls were made of a tinted plastic called Tenite II, eliminating the need for painting the dolls' bodies.

A large part of the doll's appeal was her large, elaborate wardrobe. Terri Lee's clothing was similar to clothing worn by real little girls and it was made to withstand washing and ironing. High quality fabrics and lace, satin ribbons, and metal snaps were used. Terri Lee had pajamas, school dresses, formal wear, and even a Girl Scout uniform.

As the company grew, the factory moved several times in Lincoln. By 1951, they had a factory space at 2012 O Street. Nearly 3,000 dolls were made per week and they had 190 employees. On December 15, 1951, however, a fire destroyed the factory, and i 1952, Violet decided to relocate the factory in Apple Valley, California. Business thrived, but by 1957 Violet was focusing more on other interests like Arabian horse breeding and racing. The finances of the business began to suffer. There was a large debt and the company also faced several law suits. On November 14, 1958 a fire occurred at the Apple Valley factory causing over $100,000 in damage. Violet's financial advisor, Marvin James Miller, was arrested, and convicted of arson. Although Violet was never charged, the prosecution contended that he had conspired with Violet to burn the factory because of the risk of foreclosure. Violet received no insurance money from the fire, and in 1960 she auctioned off the remaining buildings, equipment, and her ranch to help cover part of the company's debt. Later that year, she began working for Magna Enterprises and briefly attempted to produce dolls through them. The relationship did not last long. In 1961 she authorized the Mar-Fan Company to use molds to create Terri Lee, Connie Lynn (a larger baby doll) and Tiny Terri dolls. A new version of Terri Lee, "Talking Terri," was also produced. The relationship with Mar-Fan ended in 1962. Violet eventually moved to Virginia to be closer to her daughter, and she passed away there in 1972.

In 1999, the Knickerbocker Toy Co. cooperated with surviving members of Violet's family, who formed Terri Lee Associates LLC, to produce a Terri Lee doll to commemorate the 50th Anniversary. Terri Lee Associates has continued to produce a line of Terri Lee dolls into the 21st Century.

For more information on the history of Terri Lee, see "The Best-Dressed Doll in the World: Nebraska's Own Terri Lee" by Tina Koeppe, Nebraska History, Winter, 2012.
Collection Carney, Marilyn McCoy