Perhaps the leading soft toy manufacturer in the USA and also the oldest, GUND was founded 107 years ago by the German immigrant to America, Adolph Gund in Norwalk, Connecticut, US, it is thought, in 1898.
Although they did not start producing teddy bears until the early 1900’s, they were one of the first American companies to do so.
When Adolph Gund retired in 1925 with no children of his own, he sold the business to a young Russian immigrant, Jacob Swedlin for a token sum with the understanding the company name would always remain GUND. Jacob Swedlin in turn passed down control of the company to his daughter Rita Raiffe and her husband Herbert Raiffe in 1969.
Herbert Raiffe continued their tradition of producing high quality plush fabric (also known as Mohair) and the company prospered under his leadership. Also, under the direction of Herbert and Rita Raiffe, the company began using its now trademarked under-stuffing technique.
Bruce Raiffe, the third generation to run the company, joined them in 1977 and became President in 1993 and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in July 2004. Also in July 2004, Jim Madonna was appointed President, marking the first time in the Company’s long history that a non-founding family member took the reins.
GUND was responsible for pioneering many innovations, safety standards and manufacturing processes for the toy industry.
Jacob Swedlin introduced the concept of industry licensing with well-known cartoon characters such as Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Popeye and others. They were also the first American company to produce an affordably priced musical toy.