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Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls
Little dolls with exquisite costumes delight generations
 More of this Feature
 Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls Part II
• Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls Photo Gallery
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Do You Collect Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls? 
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Nancy Ann on eBay

If you were a little girl in the 1930s or 1940s, chances are very good that you had at least a small collection of Nancy Ann Storybook dolls.  And, if you are a collector of vintage dolls (dolls from 1925 through the 1970s) today, chances are very high that you have at least one Nancy Ann Storybook doll in your collection.  The dolls are also ubiquitous in antique malls throughout the United States.

Nancy Ann Storybook dolls are tiny dolls, from only 3 1/2" to 7" in height.  They were created by Nancy Ann Abbott, and were first produced in painted bisque from 1936-1947, and from 1948 to the early 1960s in plastic.  The dolls were produced on and off by various licensees after the 1960s, but the quality was not comparable.  The 1936-1960s dolls are lavishly costumed in the best fabrics and trims, and are highly sought after by collectors today.

History of Dolls and Their Creator 

Nancy Ann Abbott, the creator of the Storybook dolls, was born in 1901 as Rowena Haskin.  She lived in San Francisco as a child, and she had a fondness for dolls that lasted her entire life.  Before becoming a dollmaker, she worked as an actress in Hollywood, and also as a dress designer for various actresses.  As a dress designer, she would often dress dolls in costumes representing the full-size costumes she made.  

In 1935, Ms. Abbott returned to San Francisco where she opened a book lending shop.  There, she met Les Rowland who would later become her business partner for Nancy Ann Storybook dolls.  At the book shop. Ms. Abbott continued to dress dolls and sell them at the book store.  The dolls sold well, and in 1936  the Nancy Ann Dressed Dolls Company was born.  In 1937 Mr. Rowland became a partner in the Nancy Ann company.  The company's name became the familiar Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls, Inc. in 1945.

The first dolls created by the fledgling company were the "Hush a Bye Baby" dolls.  The bisque bodies for the dolls were made in Japan.  Soon after, a line of "Storybook" dolls including Cinderella, Little Bo Peep and others was started.  This line sold first at the Emporium in San Francisco, plus later at Marshall Fields, Harrods of London and many other fine department stores.  

Eventually, Ms. Abbott decided that the company should create the bisque for the dolls themselves, and so in the early 1940s the company opened up a plant in Berkeley, California (the first of its kind in the USA!) to create bisque doll bodies and parts.  The doll company thrived, even during WW II since production of dolls was not stopped during the war (although the Nancy Ann doll factories DID also manufacture plates and other items for the Navy during the war).  During the late 1940s, Nancy Ann Storybook dolls was the highest volume maker of dolls in the United States!  The company did very well until the late 1950s, when Ms. Abbott was diagnosed with cancer, and Mr. Roland also became ill.  Quality declined during Ms. Abbotts illness, and new dolls such as Barbie were becoming more popular with little girls at the same time. Ms. Abbott died on August 10, 1964, and the company went bankrupt in 1965.

Part II:  The Dolls

Part III:  Nancy Ann Storybook Photo Gallery

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Denise Van Patten--your Guide to Dolls
Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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