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Chad Valley

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Company History

Date Event
1860
English brothers Joseph and Alfred Johnson started a stationery business Messrs. Johnson Bros. in Birmingham
1897

Joseph and his son, Alfred, opened a factory in the nearby village of Harborne. Although trading as Johnson Bros (Harborne) Ltd the factory was known as the Chad Valley Works, having been named after the stream that runs through the village.

"Chad Valley" was adopted as the trademark.

1904 Joseph died, his son, Alfred took over
1915 The first jointed Chad Valley teddy bear was made
1916 The company patented a stuffing machine for soft toys
1920 Production of soft toys had expanded so the company moved to a separate factory, the Wrekin Toy Works, in Wellington, Shropshire
1923 Registers the Aerolite trademark. Chad Valley expanded and took over Isaac& Co
1931 Expansion continued leading to the take-over of Peacock & Co. Ltd.
1936 Alfred died. Sir James Curtis became chairman
1938 Chad Valley were appointed a British Royal Warrant of Appointment. From that date all the toys displayed a label: 'Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen' until 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, the word 'Queen' was changed to 'Queen Mother'. The new label, usually square, was imprinted with blue text and sewn on the foot with zigzag-stitches.
1950 To raise revenue for expansion, Chad Valley became a public limited company
1960 The company had seven factories and employed over 1,000 workers
1967 Chad Valley takes over H G Stone & Co Ltd (Chiltern Toys), the amalgamated company became the largest soft toy manufacturer in Great Britain
1970's The recession led to the shutting down of six of the seven factories. Soft toy manufacture moved to Pontypool.
1978 Chad Valley was taken over by Palitoy, which later was bought by the American company Kenner Parker
1988 The trade name was sold to Woolworth's, which made a series of Chad Valley toys in Asia, until running into financial difficulties and closing high street stores
2009 The Home Retail Group purchased the brand name and trademarks. Chad Valley products available exclusively from Argos

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Chad Valley Bears

Chad Valley were innovative and among the first to use coloured mohair fabrics. Their first "novel" bear, produced in 1926, was Rainbow Tubby Bear who wore a collar and a clown's hat. In 1930 the distinctive Magna bear was introduced, these had horizontal nose stitching and an unusual blue and white Magna label. A popular design during the 1930's was Cubby Bear, made from brown and fawn alpaca plush - Cubby was made again in the mid 1950s, this time of nylon plush. Sonny Bear, Cubby's little brother, was from light brown plush and wore a bib.
Chad Valley later made some famous characters such as Winnie the Pooh, who became popular by the BBC-program 'Children's hour'. In the 1950's they had exclusive rights to produce a replica of Harry Corbett's Sooty, which appeared on a popular children's program in 1952. About 1953 Toffee, from the BBC children's show "Listen With Mother", was produced wearing a knitted red bobble hat and scarf.

Cubby 1930's Magna 1950's Chad Valley bear Sooty Toffee
Chad Valley Cubby bear Chad Valley 1930's Magna bear 1950's Chad Valley teddy bear Chad Valley Sooty Chad Valley Toffee bear

These are just a few examples, visit our Vintage Bears where, depending on availability, you will see more Chad Valley bears.
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Chad Valley Bear Identification

  • Teddy Bears produced in the 1920's and 30's were marked with a metal celluloid covered button which was usually in the right ear but some have been found on the upper chest or back. Some buttons displayed the "Aerolite" trademark which was a reference to the stuffing used - a soft kapok which was used between 1923 and 1926.
    chad button

  • In 1930's a small white label was embroidered in red:

    chad valley 1930's label

    NB 1930's Magna bears had an unusual white label with blue/green lettering showing "Magna" Series Harborne England:

    Chad Valley Magna label
  • Upon receipt of the Royal Warrant in 1938 a new white label was attached (sewn with zigzag stitches) to the foot. Blue text "BY APPOINTMENT TOY MAKERS TO H. M. THE QUEEN" was shown beneath the Royal Crest:
    chad valley label - 1938 - 1952
  • In 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, the label changed slightly and the blue text shows " HM QUEEN ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER":
    Chad Valley label after used 1953

  • Some Chad Valley swing tags used in mid - late 1950's:-
  • Chad Valley 1950's label Chad Valley 1950's label Chad Valley 1950's label
    Chad Valley 1950's label Chad Valley Bunjies label Chad Valley 1950's label

  • Eyes: until the late 1950's glass eyes were used, they were replaced by plastic eyes which were, like their predecessors, sewn in and finished at the back of the neck. In the 1960's plastic safety eyes, with washers, were used.
  • Nose: often referred to as 'coal' shaped. Bears had thickly bound, vertical stitching with one horizontal stitch at the top edge. NB In the 1930's Chad Valley produced the Magna series, it's nose comprises several horizontal strands of black cotton.

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