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Scarey Anns

This article and photos by Chuck Daniel


Scarey Anns  are comical little wooden dolls that were produced in the 1920s by the Poppy Doll Company of Atascadero, California.  

The Poppy Doll Company had been making dolls until Dr. H. T Chin, a dentist, purchased the company in about 1924 to make the toy doll he and his wife had developed.  Dr. Chin patented the mechanism for his invention in 1924. (See Scarey Anns patent). The invention consisted of a lever on the lower back of the toy that was connected to a spring loaded rod that drove a hair piece or sometimes a hat and nose of the doll. All Scarey Anns were hand turned on a lathe and hand painted. Great variety therefore exists in samples found today. Josephine Bissell, a woman who painted these dolls, passed away in 2001.

 All Scareys had factory names but most of these names are now lost. We know that the "Black" dolls were called "Picaninny".  

Scarey Anns were made in great numbers and sold all over the world until 1929 when the beginnings of the great depression took them under. They were made mainly in Atascadero, California but also in Blue Rapids, Kansas. For more about Blue Rapids production, see below.

To see a list and photographs of known Scarey Ann dolls, click Scarey Anns list.

Scarey Ann Patent Scarey Ann List Jim's Scareys Francie's Anns Richard's Anns


Scarey Ann family portrait.

Chinese girl.


Picaninny's head is covered in its original protective head wrapper cover. This cover was necessary to keep the hair tight against the head.

 Showing lever mechanism.


Chinese men and clown Scareys.

Clown, policeman, and clown with mechanism. In this clown the lever works the clown's hat and nose.

An Orange Scarey Ann with the Chinese Girl and Picaninny.


This is what happens when the lever is pushed. Ann's hair stands up.

Scarey-Ann book.
Scarey Ann Patent Scarey Ann List Jim's Scareys Francie's Anns Richard's Anns


Scarey Ann Manufacturing in Blue Rapids, Kansas

The following information was submitted to us by:

Pat Osborne
Blue Rapids Historical Society and Museum
Blue Rapids, Kansas

Our local oral "history" places the dolls being made here in 1940-1941 making them of later manufacture .     This is the story as told by Onna Marie Bucholz-Wichman-Lehmkuhl of Blue Rapids:
    "Mr. George Dean, who made the dolls in Blue Rapids, was the manager of the flour mill.  I babysat with the Dean girls, Sharon and Janice in 1940-1941 and remember that the dolls were being produced here at that time.  Some people say the factory was above one of the stores on the north side of the square while others say it was west of the present doctor's clinic on Train Street. These dolls were shipped all over the country"
Two people in town have Scarey Anns that we know of.  They are both the white face girl with the 5 petal flower.  Neither has hair remaining.  Mine is minus a foot that used to be around here somewhere.     We were very excited to see the beautiful green one on eBay complete with the box from Blue Rapids.   If someone in Blue Rapids purchased it, they aren't telling us.  The museum couldn't afford the purchase.
We haven't researched through our newspaper records for more local information nor have we documented anyone else's old memories of what might have been.    We have a black and white picture of our two dolls together but will try to send you one in color if you are interested in looking.  Mine isn't for sale and I hope her "sister" will stay here at home also!