|Toy Brands and Manufacturers|
Merrythought is Britain's oldest family-owned soft toy company.
In 1919, Holmes and Laxton opened a small spinning-mill in Yorkshire to weave yarns from imported raw mohair. Later, they bought a mohair plush weaving factory in Huddersfield, and seeking an outlet for their plush fabric, founded a soft toy factory and registered the trademark, Merrythought Limited, in 1930 ("merrythought" is a Seventeenth Century English name for a wishbone, a symbol of good luck).
Soon after its foundation, Merrythought began making novelty teddy bears. The company made several soft alpaca bear cub ranges for young children, such as the very early Tumpy and the Chubby Bear of the 1930’s. The Bingie family, which was available throughout the 1930’s, was also popular. Their first catalogue was produced in 1931, and by 1935, the company was the largest soft toy manufacturer in the UK.
In 1931, they leased one of Coalbrookdale Company's buildings in Ironbridge, Shropshire. The Ironbridge area was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, and the shape of the first iron bridge was echoed in the shape of the word "Merrythought" on their labels. Electric motors were installed to drive powered sewing machines.
During World War Two, few bears were made and the British Admiralty took over the factory. Rationing affected the quality and quantity of the fabric. During this period, the factory stored plywood and produced maps, along with gabardine and velour items for the government. Toy production started up again in 1946, although many supplies were destroyed by flooding of the river Severn that year.
The post-war era saw the introduction of synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, to the company’s lines. The "button" trademark was then phased out, and the bears' foot-label became printed rather than embroidered. Merrythought produced a "Coronation" bear in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second, in red, white and blue mohair plush.
- Pauline Cockrill, The Teddy Bear Encyclopedia (Dorling Kindersley, 1993, 2001) ISBN 0751333913
- Pauline Cockrill, The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book (Dorling Kindersley 1991) ISBN 0863186556