My aunt has a flair for decorating and if I were to sum up her style in one word it would be, “special.” Her sister owned a Hallmark shop in a very tiny town and sold what are now, Vintage Annalee dolls. These little dolls could be found all over the home for every season. In her collection, there was such a large variety of characters and sizes. There were small ones that sat on table tops, tiny ones that could suspend in air and even larger ones like the life-size reindeer that are still placed around the home in winter. These are my favorite. The old vintage Annalee dolls have become a family tradition. And now, the grand children are growing up, enjoying these kitschy whimsical characters.
In today’s world, Annalee dolls can be found in lots of places including big box stores. They are made in China and I assume made quickly for mass and cheap production. The little faces are still adorable and look cute sitting around the house, but for me, it’s just not the same.
So let’s look at a little history of the Annalee dolls and why the vintage ones, like my aunt’s decorating are more special.
Like so many success stories, the Annalee company started out of necessity. These sweet-faced dolls were created by Annalee Thorndike, during the depression. As a teenager, she loved to make dolls, but it was a hobby that she had let go. She didn’t pick doll making back up again until the family farm was failing. The doll making became a family business. This crafty home based business model was cutting edge at the time. It has since become a beautiful back bone to small business in America.
There were 3 important ingredients that blended perfectly to build this unique and wonderful story: need, passion and talent. All 3 being equally important, makes me wonder if the farm would have succeeded would Annalee have ever gone back to the “making process?” And if she did, would they have become such a hit?
Learning that much of the doll making process was done in an old chicken coop on the farm, warms my heart. You can see the inspiration and love of the farm animals in many of her creations. And if you look at the dolls, some look like they have attitudes or a mischievous expression; and some have angelic smiles. I am sure her own children’s personalities and moods were in many of the hand painted faces.
Mice became a muse for the company in the 70’s. When my grandma down sized, she gave me her small collection of 3 mice. There is a tennis player, a baby in a diaper and a little lady holding a pot of flowers. The mice are worn and old but I enjoy them.
Hopefully you can see why I have a love for the older dolls. In a world where everything is stamped out in mass quantity overseas, the Vintage Annalee Dolls were literally created by the hand’s of a family sitting around the table. Even if the older ones are a little tattered or their outfits have faded over time, the story, the memory and the love that created them make them more appealing. These little guys and girls have a family history, they have roots, they are an example of The American Dream.
Here are some Spring Time Vintage Annalee Dolls I have rounded up for you to start your collection.
If you are a maker, who is not, “making money” at your craft right now or yet, I hope you keep going. The world might miss out if you stop. Not everyone will have such major or as we call it now, viral success. But if you have something special to share with the world don’t stop.