Dammit! Dam Things! Troll Dolls
When Thomas Dam, a poor Danish woodworker, carved the first Troll doll from wood in 1959, he had no idea what he had unleased onto this world. The reason Dam carved that first Troll doll was that he could not afford to buy his young daughter, Lila, a birthday present. So Thomas decided to carved for her a doll inspired by the legendary trolls which were believed to live in the Nordic forests. Legend has it that the mischievous mythical woodland creatures would bring good luck to any human who could catch one of them. Dam's delighted daughter took to the doll and dressed it up. Soon Lila's doll was all the talk amongst local village of Gjol's children. The doll and the chatter of the other children started to attract a Danish toy store owner and soon Dam was selling "Dam Dolls" locally.
These original "Dam Dolls", were of the highest quality, featuring sheep wool hair and glass eyes. The trolls were an instant success. As the doll’s popularity continued to increase, Thomas began making them from rubber filled with woodshavings. An enormous family business was born, legend must have came true for Dam... he essentially caught the the woodland creature and was granted good luck...the dolls became popular in several European countries during the early 1960s, shortly before they were introduced in the United States.
Troll Doll Impressions -Jimmy Fallon (live)
Initially in America the troll dolls were favored by high school and college girls but soon grown men were carrying them around on their travels. Even the United States First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson bragged that she owned one and apparently plenty of other people did as well, in the late 1960s,
The dolls sudden popularity, along with an error in the copyright of Thomas Dam's original product, resulted in cheaper imitations and knock-offs which flooded the American shelves. The various versions of these dolls would sell over one million dollars worth just in 1964 America alone. From 1963-1965 trolls were the second biggest selling dolls, right behind Barbies.
Because of the copyright snafu, many companies copied and produced cheap imitations of Thomas Dam's "Dam Dolls." Those imitators never met the fine craftsmanship of the Dam Dolls. There is a way to tell the difference between fakes and the real troll dolls. The "Dam" imprint on the back of the troll, or on the bottom of its feet. The cheaply made imitations are also known as Wishnik Trolls, Treasure Trolls, Gonks, and Norfins, just to name a few brand names.
All the dolls, whether original or knock-off, share the signature tall hair, funny-looking face with the same aspartame smile and potbelly. Part of the dolls charm is that they are so ugly that you can't help but to laugh at them, and many do believe if you are laughing, nothing bad can happen to you.
The Trolls: Behind the Curtain
Thomas Dam's family regained control of the copyright in 1993. Before they were mass produced in plastic, the original Dammits were made out of natural rubber, had real glass eyes and sheepskin.
It was not until 2003 that a Congressional law allowed the Dam family of Denmark to restore their original U.S. copyright and become the only official manufacturer once again. A division of Uneeda, a company that made millions of dollars various times by manufacturing Troll Dolls in the U.S., challenged the restoration of that copyright in court. They lost when the court ruled that the Dam Company was the sole owner
Troll dolls, originally known as Leprocauns and also known as Dam dolls, became one of America's biggest toy fads beginning in the autumn of 1963, and lasting throughout 1965. The troll's brightly colored hair and impish faces, were featured in articles both in Life Magazine and Time magazine.
Trolls briefly became fads again in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, with as many as ten different manufacturers (such as Russ Berrie, Jakks Pacific, Applause, Hasbro, Mattel, Nyform, Trollkins and Ace Novelty) creating them.
In 2003, the Toy Industry Association named Troll dolls to its Century of Toys List, commemorating the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century