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A History Of The Teddy Bear
Farnell Teddy Bear Company History

Teddy Bear History > Farnell

The family business of J. K. Farnell was established in 1840 in Notting Hill, London, England by John Kirby Farnell, making small textile goods such as tea cosies, pin cushions and pen wipers.

Agnus Farnell, John's daughter began making soft toys in 1870 with the backing of her Father and Henry her brother.

After John's death in 1887 Agnus and Henry moved the company to Acton and leased an 18th century house "The Elms" where they set up a soft toy business, initially using rabbit skins to make the toys.

In 1908, the company is believed to have produced its first Teddy Bear.

In 1921, J. K. Farnell became a private limited company. In the same year Agnus set up the Alpha works next to the existing Farnell factory and produced bears designed by Sybill Kemp.

In 1925 the Alpha trademark, which was used on all Farnell Bears since the 1920's, was officaially registered as the business trademark.

In 1926, T. B. Wright joined as a sales representative.

One of the most famous Farnell bears was Toffee, who was featured in a BBC children's program and was sold complete with a story booklet, woolly hat and scarf.

He was made in two colours white or gold and was 12" (30cm) tall. In good condition and complete with hat and scarf, a Toffee bear can be worth over ú350 ($550) today.

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The Alpha bears, which were made of Yorkshire mohair, became famous and Farnell quickly established itself as one of Britains most popular bear makers. Farnell bears were sold in most major stores, including Harrods in London where the original Alpha bear was brought for Christopher Robin Milne and went on to become Winnie the Pooh.

In 1927 the firm extended it's range to produce Anima wheeled toys, which included a bear and the factory space was extended to cope with the new production lines.

In 25 January 1928 Agnus Farnell died. The Farnell company however continued to expand and in the same year opened its new showroom in London at 19 New Union Street, East London.

In 1929 the company joined forces with Louis Force & Co Inc to distribute its toys in America and Canada. A showroom was opened at 215-219 Fourth Avenue, New York. By the end of the 1920's the Farnell company had also established a showroom in Paris.

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In 1931 G.E.Beer became director of the company, staying with them until 1935. In the same year the comany introduced its cheap Unicorn soft toys and production of Silkalite artifical silk plush bears had started.

In 1932, J. K. Farnell joined forces with William Bailey (Birmingham) Ltd a toy manufacturing firm managed by Percy V Goodwin. One sales team was used to market the goods of both firms.

The company had its premisies totally destroyed by fire in 1934. Despite this setback J.K.Farnell was operating again within a year from a new factory, large enough for the firm to employ 300 workers.

Many new designs were introduced at this time including Che-Kee (in Lambswool), Alpac (in Alpaca) and Jay Day dolls and the old ranges including the Alpha Teddy series of bears were revived.

In 1940 the Farnell company suffered extensive bomb damage of their premises and once agin the factory had to be totally rebuilt.

Henry Kirby Farnell died in 1944.

During the 1950's the company’s trademark was redesigned and new showrooms were opened at Condor House, 13-14 St Paul's Churchyard, East London, England.

In 1959 a production unit with 100 employees was established at 39 George St, Hastings, Sussex, England (on the south coast) and this later became the the Olympia Works. This new unit produced 95% of Teddy bears made by Farnell for export with the Acton factory now being used to produce toys mainly for the British market. Farnells head office was relocated to Hastings.

In 1960, the Farnell company registered the Mother Goose trade mark for washable nylon toys.

In 1964, all production of Farnell toys was moved to Hastings and a subsiduary company Acton Toycraft Ltd took over the lease of the Alpha Works which it renamed the Twyford Works.

In 1968, the Farnell company was taken over by a finance company and production stopped.

In 1996 The Farnell company name was bought by Merrythought who now produce replicas of the original Farnell bears.

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Alphabetical Listings...
Bing
Wendy Boston
Boyds
John W Bratton
Chad Valley 
Janet Changfoot
Chiltern
Deans Rag Book Company
Farnell  
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
Merrythought
Shuco
Teddy Bears’ Picnic music by John W Bratton and the lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy

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