Monday, April 14, 2014

The Art of Play: William Terry Bear, 1905-1908

Mohair Bear
William Terry, 1905-1908
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum

English toymaker William Terry began his business in 1890 and found moderate success with his line of stuffed animals made from real animal fur. However, his first commercial triumph was a stuffed, mohair-covered, replica of King Edward VII’s beloved terrier, Caesar. From 1909 onward, due to the success of the Ceasar toy, Terry’s company used the trademark, Terry’er Toys.

Another popular stuffed toy, as always, was the bear. During World War I, when Britain banned the import of German products, British toymakers began to thrive with the production of their own stuffed bears. This bear by William Terry is one of the earliest known English “Teddy Bears.” Made between 1905 and 1908 from shaggy mohair and stuffed with wood wool and kapok, this doll set the standard for British toy bears. With glass eyes, a sharply humped back, webbed claws and stitched nose and mouth, this bear was copied many times by a variety of toymakers.

Today, he lives in the Museum of Childhood at the Victoria & Albert Museum. We know his name is “Ted” and that he was the loyal companion of a boy who was born in 1894. This bear is remarkable in that it predates the creation of the brand Terry’er Toys and shows not only one of Terry’s earliest attempts at creating a mohair toy, but also represents the most influential introduction of a stuffed bear into the world of English toy-making.

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