The now very famous British soft toy company, Dean’s Rag Book Company started as long ago as 1903. Based then in Merton, South London. To-day Dean’s is one of the oldest surviving toy companies in Britain.
Dean’s was started in 1903 by Henry Samuel Dean, first making the now very famous and indestructible ragbooks for children. However, it was not until much later in 1915 that Dean’s produced their first Teddy Bear. Large scale production of teddy bears, however, did not really start until the 1920’s.
During the 1930’s Dean’s produced a teddy bear which was known as the “mouse-eared” teddy, probably because he had a very round face and flat wide-apart ears (rather mouse-like). His coat was pink and he had glass eyes and a rather beautifully stitched vertical nose. Today this rather special old Dean’s Bear would fetch a good price, depending of course, on his overall condition.
After the Second World War, business almost ceased, due mostly to synthetic materials having greater competition from elsewhere. In 1955, the Merton factory was sold and production moved to Rye, Sussex.
When London Zoo’s very first Polar Bear was born in 1949 (Brumas), Dean’s produced a wonderful (and now very collectible) version of it’s Mother, Ivy, holding her cub (Brumas). Today, it is very hard to find both of these bears still together. It is even harder to find a good example still with the Dean’s label.
In 1972, Dean’s merged with Gwentoys in Pontypool, Wales and from that time toys were made in both factories. In 1988, a new Dean’s Company was formed. During this time, of course, there seemed to be a storm in the collecting field and this collecting bug included the collection of Teddy Bears, especially Limited Edition Teddy Bears made by the more famous Teddy Bear Makers such as Dean’s.
A very famous and highly sought after Teddy Bear made by Dean’s is the Black Bear, designed in the 1950’s. This teddy had claws which had been moulded from latex. Dean’s Black Bear is amazingly different from all other Dean’s Teddy Bears. This bear was based on a ‘real’ bear and he had an unjointed and rather floppy body. He also had the most unusual of glass eyes which was set in rubber sockets. He also had a cream muzzle and a very large black rubber nose. The Dean’s Black Bear is a teddy you either love or hate.
Dean’s introduced their lock-in safety eyes for their soft toy range in the very early 1950’s, but these eyes were not used for their teddy bears until the late 1950’s. During the 1960’s, Dean’s began a safety campaign, making all their teddy bears suitable for young children.
Later, Dean’s launched a very popular Collectors Club, producing a magnificent range of teddy bears, all of these bears designed to recreate characteristics used in early Dean’s Bears. Each person was given a teddy bear when he joined the Dean’s Membership Club and then a new teddy bear was launched every year and only a member qualified to purchase one of these very handsome bears.
Sylvia Willgoss, one of Dean’s designers created a large brown bear in the 1970’s, this lovely bear was based on the real bears in London Zoo. He is made of synthetic non-flammable hair with black safety eyes. Like most of Sylvia’s designs, he was made unjointed. This bear comes in three sizes and also comes in rich gold and black.
Dean’s also made musical teddy bears after the Second World War, like so many other teddy bear manufacturers.
Dean’s was always famous for the dolls that they made and many of their most famous dolls were modelled on famous characters of the time from childrens’ books and stories and famous stage actors, they included Arthur Askey, George Robey and Stanley Lupino Lane. Today, these dolls are much sought after by collectors.
Indeed, to this day, Dean’s are still producing Teddy Bears and are using some famous Teddy Bear Artists to help with their designs. However, recently the factory once again moved from Pontypool and they now reside in Herefordshire.
I would end this article by saying that many teddy bear collectors around the world consider the Dean’s Teddy Bear to be one of the most ‘romantic’ of teddy bears, so they make wonderful gifts for anniversaries or other rather romantic occasions.
Gino loves fast cars, especially fast italian cars. Gino also loves anything Italian. Gino also heads an old teddy bear site which is full of adorable old teddy bears and their friends.
Please visit his website at www.ginosbears.co.uk