Big Stuffed Animal's Blog

Just another weblog

Life Size Stuffed Animals and Teddy Bears Designed by Women December 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bigstuffedanimals @ 1:03 pm

Life size stuffed animals are exactly what you think they are: soft toys that are big as the real thing. Just imagine a plush black bear that’s 7.5 feet long and as wide as a queen sized bed – from nose to tail, the real thing can reach lengths of 7 feet. If it’s authenticity you’re looking for in your soft toys, you can have it with life size stuffed animals.

In the first half of the 20th century, there were many women (designers, managers, and owners) that had a direct influence on the teddy bear industry. This, at a time, when in Britain women over thirty had just been given the right to vote (in 1918). While the careful work and dexterity of women had always been of great value in both the textile and clothing industries, very few of them had ever reached the upper levels of management. In the years following World War I, there was a shortage of men; many of them had been killed or injured on the battlefield. With this, combined with the fact that the teddy bear industry was a relatively new one, there was an overall lack of tradition, thus giving women opportunities they had never had before.

Norah Wellings began her career at the Chad Valley toy company designing soft toys. She stayed in that same position from 1919 to 1926 and then left to set up her own factory in Wellington, Shropshire (England) called the Victoria Toy Works. Norah’s main focus was on cloth dolls but in her range of toys, she did include some teddy bears.

Norah Wellings’s teddy bears were very unique and a little out of the ordinary; they had more in common with the dolls she made than they did with traditional teddy’s – they often had no joints, were dressed, and had cloth bodies. Her brother was very heavily involved  in the business and when he died in 1959, Nora decided to retire.

E.M. Daniels was another women in the teddy bear business. While she had far less experience that Norah Wellings, she did work for six months with different established toymakers before opening her own company in 1914 – it was called Jungle Toys. While she started out with just two employees, by 1919, she had 15 people working for her and exported worldwide. Daniels’ teddy bear designs played on its cute looks, something that was evident in her Bingo Bear (a koala that was launched in 1928 when it was believed koala’s were part of the bear family).

In the 1930s, two women (whose names are unknown), set up a soft toy company called Pixie Toys. One of Norah Wellings’ former  employees, Elizabeth Simmonds, joined Pixie as a designer; it was her contributions which had a major effect on the way in which Pixie bears developed. They share quite a few characteristics of some other famous teddy’s made by British companies Merrythought and Farnell, including webbed-paw claws. Elizabeth Simmonds went on to buy Pixie Toys from the founders in the late 1930s. When the demand for toys fell both during and after World War I, in 1955, a takeover of the company took place. The new ownership only managed to last seven years and the company closed its doors in 1962.

When it comes to life sized stuffed animals, teddy bears can also be found ‘living’ in this world. While they don’t look much like the bears first created by the influential women of the teddy industry, that should make no difference in choosing one. Choosing any life size stuffed animal, for that matter, should be an easy decision.