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Dean's

Skip down to Dean's Bears or Dean's Bear Identification

Company History

Date Event
1903
Dean's Rag Book Co. Ltd founded in Fleet Street, London by Henry Samuel Dean to launch his children's rag book.
1908

Printed cloth "Knockabout" cut out teddy bear and rag book produced

1912 The company moved to Elephant & Castle, London. Richard Ellett joins as company secretary, he later became chief designer
1915 The first catalogued teddy bears were sold, under the name Kuddlemee for The British Novelty Works, a subsidiary company
1916 A major fire destroyed early productions
1922 The first teddy bears with the Dean's logo were produced. The trade name A1 Toys is registered. Evripoze joints patented.
1924

A new showroom opened in Covent Garden, London

1931 Art silk used in place of mohair
1933 A new showroom opened at Ludgate Hill, London
1936 A factory was built in Merton, south-west London
1940 Production reduced due to WWII, the Merton factory produced Bren-gun covers
1949 The first catalogue was produced since WWII
1952 Sylvia Wilgoss joined as a designer. The company splits: the sales agents (Dean & Son) hire travelling salesmen including Jack Crane and operate separately. The London showroom moved to the factory premises. Soft toys, with the bulldog trademark were produced to supply via wholesalers
1955 The factory at Merton was sold to reduce costs (it was destroyed by fire in 1990's). Richard Ellett retired
1956 Company moved to Rye, Sussex. A subsidiary "Childsplay" was formed to manufacture soft toys. Sylvia Wilgoss replaced Richard Ellett as chief designer
1961 The Rye factory expanded, a new unit was established for Merton Toys in Wimbledon
1965 The company name changed to Deans Childsplay Toys Ltd
1971 Jack Crane died
1972 The company merged with Gwentoys Ltd, to become the Deans/Gwentoys Group
1974 Some production moved to the Gwentoys factory in Pontypool
1983 80th Anniversary - a commemorative bear produced
1986 An import company, Plaintalk, took over - the company became The Deans Company (1903) Ltd
1987 Neil Miller, the current Managing Director, joined
1988 Company went into liquidation. Neil Miller organized a management buy-out with his wife Barbara as Finance Director and Michael Crane (Jack Crane's son) as Sales Director.
1990 Purchased the original Deans Rag Book Co Ltd
1991 Production for the collectors market began using old patterns and the Dean's Rag Book trademark
1993 100th Anniversary - a special catalogue was produced
1994 Dean's Collectors Club launched on 22nd August

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Dean's bears

Dean's
"mouse-eared"
c1939

Ivy & Brumas
1950

Dean's
1957-61

Dean's/Gwentoy
1972-82

Barley
Deans
Limited Edition 2000
Dean's mouse eared bear circa 1939 Ivy & Brumas by Deans Dean's 1957-61 bear Deans 1972-82 bear Barley, Dean's Limited Edition bear made 2000

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

Dean's produced their first teddies in 1915, during WWI when materials were scarce, they were branded the Kuddlemee range and comprised two dressed bears (Master Bruno and Miss Bruno) in three sizes plus another (British Bear) who wore just a ribbon and bell. There is no record of any of these bears still existing. The Kuddlemee range also included other soft toys such as cats and an elephant. Although Tru-to-Life bears and other animals were popular in the 1950's the first Tru-to-Life toys were produced in 1915. In 1923 the A1 bear appeared including A1 Bendy Bear with the patented Evripoze joints. The A1 bear was popular and made for many years - most were made in gold but some were made in blue and pink. In 1931 Dean's began using artsilk and by 1932 it had replaced mohair (mohair wasn't used again until 1937) - the resulting bear was called Silkeen Teddy and available in two sizes and assorted colours according to fashion (including buttercup, coral, sunset, poppy, tango and jade). In the 1930's "mouse-eared" bears appeared, so-called because they have round heads with ears set on the side of the head - these were produced until the 1950's. In 1949 a polar bear at London Zoo gave birth to a cub, this aroused great public interest and, in 1950, Dean's responded by making Ivy and her cub, Brumas - they were made of white mohair or wool. Tru-to-Life bears, designed by Sylvia Wilgoss, were produced again around 1955 and made in white, black or honey, had moulded rubber paws and feet. They were produced for many years - those made in the 1950's are very collectable today. In 1991 Dean's began producing bears for collectors; the first was called "Jack" - they went on to produce a range of Carnival Bears, each edition in that range was limited to 250, and replicas of their earliest bears. In 1995 top artists such as Janet Clark and Jill Baxter were commissioned to design bears for a range which became known as Artist Showcase.

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Dean's Bear Identification

Since it's formation Dean's have used a variety of swing tags and labels in different colours, they even used a button at one point. Some of the more popular labels are listed:-

  • The first Kuddlemee range, produced in 1915, had a circular swing tag depicting a British bulldog and the British Toy and Novelty Works logo.
  • Through most of the 1920's the A1 logo was promoted - it was a large black "A" with a "1" inset and the Dean's Rag Book logo (two dogs tearing a rag book).
  • From 1928 until 1935 a silver button, embossed with Dean's Rag Book Co Ltd, was inserted into the left ear of some bears
  • From 1928 to 1955 the following label was normally sewn to a bear's right foot:-
foot label used 1928 to 1955
  • In 1957 the Company used "Childsplay" as a brand name and new, plain, sew-in labels were developed with no mention of London or Rye.
  • In 1961 the Childsplay label was redesigned - with the letters of "Childsplay" in alternating red and blue.
  • The label, sewn into side seams, was changed following the Dean's/Gwentoy merger in 1972:-
Deans/Gwentoys label used after 1972
  • In 1988, the Millers decided a new white label with "DEAN'S MADE IN GT BRITAIN" printed in red.
  • In 1990 the label was redesigned, the white background contained a large red oblong with "Dean's" printed in white, underneath the red oblong it shows "PONTYPOOL, GWENT, UK NP4 6YY" printed in red. This label is still used.
  • From 1991 to 1999 a white franked label, showing the number, was sewn in to Limited Edition bears
  • The Carnival range, produced from 1992 to 1993, had a special embroidered label: this was a red bear beating a drum and "Carnival Bears" in blue - there was no mention of Dean's.
  • Ears: some bears made in the late 1920's and 1930's (up to 1935) had a silver button in their left ear, it was embossed with "Dean's Rag Book Co Ltd Made In England"
  • Eyes: glass eyes were used. The eye is sewn through the back of the head and finished with a knot
  • Nose: many bears made in the 1920's and 30's had shaved muzzles and the outermost stitches of their black embroidered noses were extended downward. A black moulded rubber nose was used in the 1950's
  • Filling: the best quality bears had wood wool in the head and kapok in the body, cheaper bears were filled entirely with wood wool.

If you would like to know more about Dean's visit our bookshop where you will find "The Dean's Rag Book Company Limited, The First 100 Years" by Neil Miller. It's a hardback book containing 192 pages packed with detailed information about the company, the labels and tags used, their bears and other soft toys such as Dismal Desmond, Mickey Mouse and gollies and numerous photographs. I would recommend this book to those with a specific interest in Dean's bears.

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