For over one hundred years, the teddy bear has remained a beloved friend to all, and since being established in 1930, Merrythought has contributed to their timeless longevity through our commitment to high quality, British craftsmanship. A pair of endearing eyes, a velvety soft coat, and captivating charm have earned the teddy bear a special place in our hearts, and shaping a century of childhood adventures shared with the most loyal of companions.

While toy bears have been crafted throughout history, the creation of the ‘teddy’ bear is said to have begun with an act of compassion by US President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt. In 1902, he embarked on a hunting trip in Mississippi, where he refused to harm a captive brown bear that was offered to him. News of the event swiftly spread across the country, and Clifford Berryman, a political cartoonist of the time, light-heartedly captured the event with an illustration appearing in the Washington Post.

Inspired by Berryman’s cartoon, Morris and Rose Michtom, who kept a sweet shop in Brooklyn, created a soft toy bear dedicated to the President and his bear hunt story. After sending Roosevelt the original as a gift for his children, they gained his expressed permission to use his name. Henceforth, their new toy made its debut in the Michtoms’ shop window and in 1902, ‘teddy’s bear’ was born.

‘Teddy’s Bear’ was so well received that the Michtom’s began to mass manufacture these new soft toys. The success of their toy bears continued and in 1907, the pair founded the ‘Ideal Novelty and Toy Company’, which in later years became the most renowned doll-making establishment in the United States. Roosevelt even adopted the teddy bear as the symbol of the Republican Party during the 1904 election.

During the same year that saw the appearance of the Michtoms’ design, German family, Steiff, who were established in making felted toy animals, created their original toy bear prototype, Bear 55PB – the world’s first jointed teddy bear.

However, it was the established toy company, Farnell, who made the first British teddy bear. Following Steiff’s popularised creation, teddy bears had been frequently imported to England from Germany, and while siblings Henry and Agnes Farnell were already producing soft toys under their family name, in 1906, they crafted the very first British teddy bear from their factory in Acton, west London. The company offered a range of traditional mohair bears as part of their ‘Alpha Toys’ series, which featured jointed limbs, distinct muzzles, and humps on their backs, sharing a similar appeal to their successful German counterparts. The most famous Farnell teddy bear, who is often regarded as the world’s best loved bear, was a bear who would later be known as ‘Edward’ and would become the inspiration for AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.

Over the next 20 years, the popularity of the teddy bear and soft toys in general continued to grow, and recognising this opportunity, Gordon Holmes established Merrythought in 1930. The company’s first teddy bear was then known as the original ‘Merrythought Bear’, which appeared in the first collection in 1931. The teddy bear’s resemblance to wild bears lessened over time, as they adopted more appealing features and cheerful expressions.

Many of Merrythought’s designs today are based on the original designs of Florence Attwood, who inspirationally overcame the many challenges associated with being deaf and unable to speak to create a range of characters that began to drive sales. Gordon Holmes’ ambitious new management team comprised of production expertise from Clifton Rendle, formerly of Chad Valley toy company, and Henry Janisch, who had previously headed up sales for Farnell. For generations to come, Merrythought has brought together the best people and materials to hand-craft the ultimate childhood companion – direct from the historical Ironbridge factory in Shropshire.

While recent years have seen the evolution of other children’s toys, such as electronic gadgets, teddy bears are still just as trusted as they have ever been, remaining a timeless, traditional toy. They have served as a lasting keepsake for young children, with many choosing to name and create an entire personality for their bears, bringing them to life and developing their own imaginations. But perhaps most importantly, teddy bears provide comfort and companionship and a quality bear, such as one made by Merrythought, is lasting friend who is always by your side, throughout the ups and downs of adulthood too.

Teddy bears are also cherished by collectors, with limited edition bears making for an asset to treasure. Often created to honour important events, such as royal weddings or as a tribute to celebrated historical figures, Merrythought’s collectable bears have become highly sought after around the world. In recent years, we have created teddy bears to celebrate the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles III, amongst many others. These exquisite bears capture historic moments and allow a piece of that history to be remembered and passed to future generations.

The enduring appeal of the teddy bear makes it a steadfast symbol of comfort and companionship, holding a special place in our hearts and homes. Through Merrythought’s great care and attention to detail, each of our bears is lovingly handmade with a unique character, ready to become an adored member of the family. Additionally, our commitment to using only the very best materials ensures a superior quality that can last a lifetime, ensuring you have a friend that will stand the test of time.