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A History Of The Teddy Bear
Chad Valley Toy Company History

Teddy Bear History > Chad Valley

The Chad Valley Toy Company had its origins in a printing and book binding business that was set up in Birmingham England by an Anthony Bunn Johnson.

Very little is known about this firm, but an original letterhead from 1850 seems to indicate that it had already been established over thirty years by then.

In 1860 Anthony's two sons, Joseph and Alfred, set up a similar business trading as Messrs. Johnson Bros in George Street, Birmingham.

By 1897, Joseph was running the firm alone with his eldest son Alfred J Johnson and they had relocated the business to a newly erected factory in the village of Harbourne, England.

A small stream called the Chad flowed close by the new factory and it soon acquired the name of The Chad Valley Works from which the registered trade mark "Chad Valley" was derived.

Johnstone Brothers (Harbourne) Ltd, continued to sell stationery but in addition also began to produce a range of cardboard games and toys which was gradually extended over the years.

In 1904 Joseph Johnson died and his eldest son Alfred J Johnson took over as chairman and managing director.

With the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918) the imports of toys and games into the United Kingdom stopped and the company produced its first soft toys, a range of traditional, jointed, plush Teddy Bears in 1915.

Despite restrictions of material and available personnel Chad Valley used this opportunity to increase its range of products and to expand and by the early 1930's, Chad Valley were advertising a range of bears in fourteen sizes.

The bears produced in the 1920's and 1930's were marked with a printed, celluloid-covered metal button and / or woven labels.

By the end of the war in 1918, the company had expanded to such an extent that it needed more room for production and in 1919 they acquired Harbourne Village Institute. This building was used as a printing works to provide box covers and labels for the companies games and toys.

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The soft toy business was also in need of more space and was relocated to the market town of Wellington in Shropshire, England. The new factory, known as The Wrekin Toy Works, began production in 1920.

At this time the business was also re-organised and the three factories were merged into one firm called The Chad Valley Co Ltd.

A. J. Johnson remained chairman of the company until his death in 1936. He was succeeded as chairman by Sir James Curtis and then by F.R.B. Whitehouse, who held the chair until his retirement in 1956.

During the 1920's the Chad Valley Company continued to expand its range of products and the Wellington and Harbourne works were both extended to cope with increased production.

In 1931 the company took over the long established toy manufacturing firm of Peacock & Co. of London.

In 1938 the Chad Valley Company was granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment, "Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen". This was the gracious lady we now know as “The Queen Mother” the mother of Queen Elizabeth II.

During the Second World War the Chad Valley factories were used for government contract work and the production of soft toys was drastically cut. Wartime products manufactured by the company were varied but included small wooden instrument cases, cases to contain the barrels for anti aircraft guns, electrical coils, electric starters, auto pilots, children's clothing, hospital tables, tent poles and charts.

One factory did continue to produce a limited number of toys, staffed by the firm's oldest employees. They made items such as jigsaw puzzle's, chess pieces and dominoes which were used by the armed forces and in military hospitals all over the world. At the end of the war the Chad Valley Companies were quickly switched back to toy production.

In 1950 the firm was incorporated as a Public Company and expansion continued, but now by taking over other toy firms.

Firms aquired by Chad Valley during this period included ...
1951 Hall & Lane Ltd of Birmingham, England, a firm that mainly manufactured metal toys;
1954 the family business of Roberts Bros (Gloucester) Ltd who made the range of Glevum toys.
1958 Acme Stopper & Box Co Ltd of Birmingham, England, a metal toy maker.
1967 H.G. Stone & Co. Ltd (Chiltern Toys).

In 1953 upon the succession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne of Great Britain etc., etc., the Royal Warrant was changed to "Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen Mother".

By the 1970's however, Chad Valley itself began experiencing problems. Restructuring took place between 1973 and 1975 which saw all but two of the factories owned by the firm closed down. All soft toy manufacturing moved to Pontypool in Wales, UK.

Finally in 1978 the firm was taken over by the Leicester, England based firm Palitoy.

In 1988 the chainstore Woolworth's acquired the trade name Chad Valley.

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Alphabetical Listings...
Wendy Boston
John W Bratton
Chad Valley 
Janet Changfoot
Deans Rag Book Company
Grisly Speilwaren 
Gund The American giant 
Hermann, Hermann Speilwaren, Gebruder Hermann, Hermann Teddy Original 
Jimmy Kennedy who wrote the words to the song Teddy Bears’ Picnic
Teddy Bears’ Picnic music by John W Bratton and the lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy

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