Collectors and indeed, lovers of Teddy Bears have undoubtedly heard of the British Teddy Bear Makers, Dean’s, Merrythought, Chiltern and Chad Valley, but there were numerous other makers of teddy bears since his birth in 1902 that have come and gone and are not commonly heard of.
More and more Teddy Bear makers are being discovered and, although the major names are well documented many of the smaller manufacturers have now faded into obscurity.
Steevans Manufacturing Co. Very little indeed is known about this company. We know that it was founded in 1908 and ceased all production in 1920. The teddy bears produced were labelled with a metal button in the ear with the words “Steevans, England” written on it, along with a serial number embossed on it. However, many of these fine old teddy bears are found without any markings at all. Because the factory survived for such a very short period of time, these bears are quite rare today. Because they are rare and because they have endearing good looks they are much sought after by collectors. These teddy bears share many characteristics of other early British Teddy Bears, including black boot-button eyes and hard stuffing.
Lefray Toys Ltd.- Established in London in 1948. In 1960 they relocated to St. Albans in Hertfordshire, where they remained for nine years before relocating yet again to South Wales. In 1980, Lefray took over the British manufacturer, Real Soft Toys.
Lefray was granted a special license to produce their own version of Rupert Bear, which they still produce.
Lefray Teddy Bears have many British Teddy Bear characteristics including golden mohair and large floppy ears.
Harwin & Co.- Established in 1914 at the Eagle Works in Finsbury Park, London. Harwin produced their very first Teddy Bear in 1915. At the London Fair in 1916 they launched a series of mascot teddy bears – Ally Bears. These beautiful teddy bears were dressed in the uniforms of allied forces of the First World War. The sales manager of Harwins, a Mr Taylor, had previously been employed as a salesman for the Steiff Company, hence some close similarities between the two makes. The one very obvious difference being, Steiff dressed very few of their teddy bears while Harwin dressed most of their teddy bears.
The company ceased in 1930, however after suffering the affects of post-war depression.
Wendy Boston- Ken and Wendy Boston set up a soft toy company in 1945 in South Wales. Wendy Boston revolutionised teddy bear manufacture when they produced the first fully washable Teddy Bear in 1954. This company was also responsible for pioneering teddy bears safety eyes.
Wendy Boston concentrated on producing teddy bears that were easy to look after, making them out of washable synthetic fabrics, and using rubber foam as a stuffing. This of course, made their Teddy Bears extremely popular with small children as they could be washed regularly and safely so making them much more hygienic to be handled by children.
Most Wendy Boston Teddy Bears were made unjointed with undefined feet.
Wendy Boston Teddy Bears come in a range of colours and sizes in short and long pile too. The Wendy Boston label includes the instructions to wash in luke-warm suds.
Sadly, the company was taken over by Denys Fisher Toys in 1968 and ceased production fully in 1976.
Plummer Wandless & Co.- Formed by Daphne Plummer and her husband John, after Daphne bought a soft toy rabbit in 1944 and dismantled him to see how he was made. She started making teddy bears soon after, just to earn some pocket money. When John left the Army after the war, he saw potential in Daphne’s teddy bears and he gave up his job in furniture production to start trading in them. John was helped financially by his friend Dudley Wandless, John and Dudley set up business together in 1946.
John was the designer and used sheepskin with a silky gloss. By 1967, they were producing some 70,000 teddy bears.
In 1971, Daphne Plummer died and the business was sold. However, her Teddy Bears live on….
One of this company’s most famous of Teddy Bears was a bear called Tinka Bell, who was based on the famous fairy in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. During the 1950’s, this teddy bear was extremely popular indeed with literally thousands of them being made and sold each week. Tinka Bell came in numerous versions and sizes and today are collected by Teddy Bear Collectors around the world.
The British Teddy Bear certainly has tons of appeal with collectors, especially some of the older bears dating to around the time of the First World War.
If you find an Old British Teddy Bear he is certainly worth buying, whether from one of the more famous manufacturers or one of the more elusive makers, some of who are listed above.
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
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