This page is about the small bisque and hard plastic Storybook character dolls produced by Nancy Ann Dressed Dolls and Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls, Inc. from 1936 through the 1950s. For info about the company’s other dolls, go to the Muffie, Style Show and Other Dolls by Nancy Ann page.
Nancy Ann Abbott (real name Rowena Haskin) was born in 1901 in California and worked as an actress and dress designer in Hollywood before opening a book lending shop in San Francisco in 1935. In her shop, she also offered dolls for sale that she dressed herself in the evenings. Prior to this, dolls had been just a hobby, but when they proved popular, she was inspired to leave the bookshop to start her own doll company, Nancy Ann Dressed Dolls. In 1937, Les Rowland joined her firm as a partner, bringing to it his financial and selling skills, and they were off and running.
The first dolls were made in Japan and dressed here. Later on, the company had its own production facility. The first dolls made in the USA were marked “Judy Ann”. By the mid-40s, the company was called Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls.
Nancy Ann Storybook character dolls only came in a few variations of size and body construction; instead they are identified by the outfit they are wearing, and many of the outfits look very similar. A doll without her original box or wrist tag can be very difficult to identify. Most of the dolls were produced as Caucasian girls; boys and African-American girls are much less common. The same molds were used for both genders and races.
The Storybook dolls were produced in bisque from 1936 to 1948, when they changed to hard plastic. They are mostly 5.5″ tall, but can range from 4.5″ to 7″ tall. They may or may not be jointed at the hips or neck; all dolls are jointed at the shoulders. Most dolls have glued-on mohair wigs; a very few dolls have painted hair. Many of the hard plastic dolls have sleep eyes, but all the bisque dolls and some hard plastic have painted eyes. For more information see the Nancy Ann Dolls website.
Most dolls are marked on their back, but the markings may be faint if the mold had been used for a long period of time. A variety of marks were used. Most of the marks include the words “Story Book” but some of the earlier dolls are marked “Made in Japan” or “Judy Ann.” For more information see the Nancy Ann Dolls website.
Most Storybook dolls were produced as part of a series. Go to the Series List for individual doll photos.
Most dolls were packaged in white boxes with large pink, red, silver or blue polka dots. Some of the earlier boxes had different backgrounds or graphics. The hard plastic dolls have “Nancy Ann Storybook Doll” written in between the dots. Beginning in 1941, each doll had a gold foil wrist tag bearing her name. Prior to that, gold stickers were attached to the doll’s outfit.
Copyright 2006-2013 by Zendelle Bouchard