Dean's Rag Book Co. Ltd founded
in Fleet Street, London by Henry Samuel Dean to launch his
children's rag book.
Printed cloth "Knockabout" cut out
teddy bear and rag book produced
||The company moved to Elephant & Castle, London. Richard
Ellett joins as company secretary, he later became chief designer
||The first catalogued teddy bears were sold, under the name
Kuddlemee for The British Novelty Works, a subsidiary company
||A major fire destroyed early productions
||The first teddy bears with the Dean's logo were produced.
The trade name A1 Toys is registered. Evripoze joints patented.
A new showroom opened in Covent Garden, London
||Art silk used in place of mohair
||A new showroom opened at Ludgate Hill, London
||A factory was built in Merton, south-west London
||Production reduced due to WWII, the Merton factory
produced Bren-gun covers
||The first catalogue was produced since WWII
||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
||The factory at Merton was sold to reduce costs (it was destroyed
by fire in 1990's). Richard Ellett retired
||Company moved to Rye, Sussex. A subsidiary "Childsplay"
was formed to manufacture soft toys. Sylvia Wilgoss replaced
Richard Ellett as chief designer
||The Rye factory expanded, a new unit was established for Merton
Toys in Wimbledon
||The company name changed to Deans Childsplay Toys Ltd
||Jack Crane died
||The company merged with Gwentoys Ltd, to become the Deans/Gwentoys
||Some production moved to the Gwentoys factory in Pontypool
||80th Anniversary - a commemorative bear produced
||An import company, Plaintalk, took over - the company became
The Deans Company (1903) Ltd
||Neil Miller, the current Managing Director, joined
||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.
||Purchased the original Deans Rag Book Co Ltd
||Production for the collectors market began using old patterns
and the Dean's Rag Book trademark
||100th Anniversary - a special catalogue was produced
||Dean's Collectors Club launched on 22nd August
These are just a few examples, visit our Vintage
Bears where, depending on availability, you will see more Deans
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
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:-
- 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:-
- 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
- Filling: the best quality bears had wood wool in the head and
kapok in the body, cheaper bears were filled entirely with wood
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.