Early British manufacturers copied the look of the German bears however over the years they have gradually changed, as designers began to experiment with different shapes and materials to give each bear manufacturer a unique look of its own.
J K Farnell was the first bear company in British, opening their doors in 1906, and were quickly followed by the early W J Terry, Dean’s Rag Book Co Ltd, Chad Valley and Chiltern. The look for the early German bears was the most popular for these new comers but this quickly changed as designers worked to give each company a special look of its own.Â Bodies became more solid, faces flatter arms and legs shorter. They also began to experimented with different materials. During the 1920’s artificial silk plush was quite a favourite particularly with coloured bears as the fabric was easy to dye. By 1950 sheepskin was often used but mohair has always remained the traditional favourite for bears popular.
Today we can identify many early British bears made by different companies by their characteristics. Chad Valley bears are instantly recognisable from their bulbous noses, which are often compared to lumps of coal. Early Farnell bears have webbed claw stitching, and Chiltern noses of the 1920s and 1930s have two long stitches going up at each end.
Sadly many bear companies did not survive the two world wars despite the growing demand for these furry friends. W J Terry By the end of the 1930s J Terry made its last bear, and Chiltern was taken over by Chad Valley which in turn was taken over by Palitoy. Merrythought which started its business in 1930, was one of last survivors closed its doors in 2006 leaving only Dean’s as one of the last big names from the beginning of British bears.