Lee Mercantile Company was founded by Henry David Lee in 1889, when Lee opened his first factory in Salina, Kansas, producing dungarees and jackets.
In 1913, the Union-All work jumpsuit was created, followed by the first-ever "Overall" in 1920 - laying the foundation for Lee's early growth. In the 1920s The silent salesman was introduced. Sales manager Chester Reynolds came up with the idea of using a doll, to "model" miniature versions of the company's clothes as a store display. The 12 inch composition dolls first appeared placed in windows of the Dayton's flagship store on Nicolett Mall in Minneapolis. If you saw the doll, displayed in a "dry goods" store it meant that the store sold the H.D. Lee brand. Lee encouraged stores to sell the dolls after the displays were taken down and later provided the dolls for retail, dressed in many versions for just usd 2,40. The first generation composition dolls were made from 1920 until 1948. The second generation was made from hard plastic and grew an inch. By the end of the production in 1962 Buddy Lee was the second highest selling doll in the United States, you can figure out yourself which doll was number 1. Thanks to Lee Amsterdam, I'm the happy owner of a third generation limited edition Buddy Lee (nr. 47 of 250). As from today he guards my books about denim and Americana. No, guys don't play with dolls.