22/06/2024

The Critters

For Nice Critters

Large Teddy Bears and British Teddy Manufacturers

Large Teddy Bears and British Teddy Manufacturers

Large teddy bears are a staple of every child’s bedroom and/or playroom. Because of their popularity and ability to transport you right back to when you were young, you may find them in a few adult bedrooms as well. It’s hard to imagine what a childhood would be like without large teddy’s, and let’s hope we never have to find out.

The Harwin & Co. Ltd. were a British producer of top quality teddy’s. It was founded by G.W. Harwin in 1914 in response to the import ban on German goods (where the first teddy was produced) after the declaration of World War I.

Harwin’s early productions focused mainly on felt dolls which is why its most famous (and memorable) bears were dressed in the finest felt clothes; they were designed by the founder’s daughter Dorothy. Ally Bears – as they were called – wore the uniforms of World War I soldiers and sailors in the Allied forces, along with those of the Red Cross nurses. While Ally Bears were very successful at the time, today they are extremely rare. While there is little explanation as to why, it could be because they went with so many of their owners to the Front and like their owners, never came back.

Harwin and Co. also produced the Scottish bear which was dressed in full Highland regalia; it was part of the Eyes Right range of bears which were so named because of their googly eyes.

Another British manufacturer of the teddy was Dean’s Rag Book Co. Ltd. which was founded by Henry Samuel Dean in 1903. The company specialized in rag books for children which were indestructible. In 1908, the company went on to create printed cloth bears which were part of its Knockabout Toy series. The bear was cotton and had to be cut out and put together at home. A teddy bear rag book was also issued in the same year. In 1912, the company moved from Fleet Street in London to southeast London and three years after that they produced their first plush mohair teddy bear. The bear had pointed ears and long jointed limbs and was launched under the Kuddlemee brand name.

In 1915, The Chad Valley Co. Ltd. introduced a line of teddy bears. The company had started out as a bookbinder and printer 95 years earlier and was founded in Birmingham by Anthony Bunn Johnson. By 1889, Johnson, along with his three sons who had all joined the business, moved to a new factory located in a village that was close by called Harborne. It was here that the Chad Valley trademark was born thanks to the stream that ran through Harborne. By 1900, the company’s product range expanded and included cardboard games. They began to increase their production on toys which was helped along by the ban of German imports during World War 1. This ban prompted the introduction of soft toys with the fist teddy bears appearing on the scene in 1915.

Some of The Chad Valley bears were initially filled with cork chipping but they solved that problem when in 1916, the company patented a stuffing machine for toys. During the war years Chad Valley continued to make teddy bears and by 1920, they had opened a separate location for soft toys in Wellington, Shropshire.

Large teddy bears owe a huge debt of gratitude to the original creator of the teddy, Margarete Steiff, along with many of the other company’s that followed in her footsteps. Without them, who knows where large teddy bears would be today.

©Copyright Shelley Vassall, 2010.