The Annalee Dolls was founded by Barbara Annalee Davis who was born in 1915 in Concord, New Hampshire. She began handcrafting her own dolls since she was young due to her interest in puppetry. In the 1930’s, Annalee continued handcrafting dolls and sold these to the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and then later to the S.S. Pierce and Company when she moved to Boston.
In 1941, she met Charles Thorndike whom she soon married and the couple raised a family in Meredith, New Hampshire. They established a business named Thorndike’s Eggs and Auto Parts but it only lasted until 1950 when the price of poultry produce declined. Annalee was then encouraged to try selling dolls again and started with a skier doll line. The doll line was a hit that they soon built a factory to produce more dolls. They made dolls with felt body and that were bendable. The doll body also had a wire frame while the rest of the doll parts were sewn and its facial features were painted by Annalee.
The small company expanded and was incorporated to be known as the Annalee Mobilitee Dolls (AMD). Stores in Boston and Manchester started purchasing dolls from Annalee for their display windows. The state of New Hampshire also contracted Annalee to produce dolls that would be used to market tourism in the state. Orders started to fill in that their dolls were now distributed to around 40 states in the US including Puerto and Canada. They soon expanded their operations and moved their factory to a 14-acre land with several buildings built on it.
In 1975, the company had its publicity when a state legislator gave former president Gerald Ford a doll set used as a decoration for a Christmas tree in the White House. Annalee Dolls also became a sponsor for United States Ski Team member Christopher Pederson. The company logo was printed on Pederson’s ski gears and they had made a special edition Victory Ski Doll for the ski team.
However in the late 1990’s, the company began to outsource some of its operations overseas due to the decline in the demand dolls and novelty items. On April 7, 2002, the company’s founder, Annalee Thorndike, passed away and the operations were left to her two sons. But a legal dispute broke out between the two sons, Charles and Townsend, which prompted the sale of the company to the Imagine Company of Hong Kong, Bob Watson, and David Pelletier. The land on which their factory was built was also sold to the Winnipesaukee Playhouse. Yet even with these changes, the company still continues to manufacture dolls and gift items until today.
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