Jackie Ormes - photograph courtesy of Tim Jackson's Pioneering Cartoonists of Color
In the late 1940s, Zelda “Jackie” Ormes, the first syndicated African American female cartoonist, presented her concept for a black doll to the creator and founder of the newly formed Terri Lee® doll company. The concept for the doll was fashioned after Ms. Ormes’ comic strip character, Patty-Jo. Bonnie Lou and Benjie were already part of the black Terri Lee® doll family prior to the late 1940s Lincoln, Nebraska meeting between Ms. Ormes and Violet Vivian “Vi” Gradwohl. It is apparent, however, that Jackie believed her doll concept… her vision needed to be shared with Vi.
On August 23, 1947, Patty-Jo, the doll, came to life with a signed contract between Ms. Ormes and the Terri Lee® doll company. The contract extended through January 1, 1950, with the possibility of renewal for an additional five-year period by written notice on or before November 1, 1949. Patty-Jo was on the market just in time for Christmas 1947; she arrived to happy owners complete with a wrist tag describing her significance to the doll world. Credited to Ms. Ormes’ vision, for at least three Christmases, the black female doll in the Terri Lee® doll line, formerly named Bonnie Lou, was renamed Patty-Jo...
1940s Patty-Jo designed by Jackie Ormes for Terri Lee
Patty-Jo’s distinct facial screening, her two black ponytails of Celanese fiber (mannequin hair), and PATENT PENDING, which marks her back, distinguishes the doll from Bonnie Lou whose reddish brown, pageboy almost matches her complexion. Unfortunately, black female dolls manufactured after the company moved operations from Nebraska to California in 1951, resumed their original name, Bonnie Lou. Inexplicably, Patty-Jo was put to rest. Despite Patti-Jo’s untimely demise, collector’s continued to cherish her and Terri Lee® continued to produce other dolls until 1962.
Patty-Jo Holiday Party
In 1997, Terri Lee® Associates was founded and doll production resumed. In 2002, veteran and novice Terri Lee® collectors celebrated the black doll’s comeback as Patty-Jo Holiday Party, produced in a limited edition of 300.
Sunday Best Benji and Bonnie Lou
To further delight collectors, in 2003, Benjie and Bonnie Lou Sunday’s Best were added to the collectible doll line and produced in a limited edition of 350. They wear matching light blue woolen outfits with Bonnie Lou wearing signature wrist daisies like those held by the original dolls...
2007 First Play Line Patty-Jo
...To introduce today’s girls to their dolls, Terri Lee® Associates... created a play line... Patty-Jo ... was reintroduced... in August 2007.
...In 1947, Patty-Jo’s original wholesale price was $7 with a retail price of $11.95. Today, the original version usually commands four-figures, greatly exceeding the original selling price and soundly proving Ms. Ormes’ 20/20 doll vision.
Click here for Internet images of Jackie Ormes, her comic strips, dolls, and other related information.