Category:Dean's Rag Book Company

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Toy Brands and Manufacturers

Dean's Rag Book Company (GaT 1956).jpg

Dean's Rag Book Company

1903 -     

Dean’s Rag Book Company (a.k.a. Deans Rag Books, or just Dean's) was founded in 1903 by Henry Samuel Dean to produce rag books for children. However, their expertise in working with cloth, printing and "patterns" also led them to branch out into other enterprises such as making soft toys and cut-out books.

Rag Books

The "Rag Books" made by Deans were simple printed cloth books with edges cut with a zig-zag "clothmaking shears" pattern.

Rag books were ideal for very small children, they were cheap, pages couldn't be torn out and eaten, they were difficult to deface, it didn't matter if the child fell asleep with one (as they were soft and comfortable), and ... ultimately ... if they ended up saturated with drool or mud (or worse), they could easily be washed and sterilised.


The company’s trademark – a bulldog and a terrier fighting over a rag book – was designed by artist Stanley Berkley and reflected the durability (and near-indestructability) of Deans toys. Some of Dean’s early toys had metal buttons fixed to their bodies as a trademark, but this ended after Steiff started suing companies for "borrowing" their idea. By 1922-23, Deans had registered the trade name A1 Toys and the company started adding triangular-shaped "A1" tags to some toys.


Deans produced their first catalogued teddy bears in their Elephant and Castle factory in 1915, and started producing a series of kapok-stuffed, mohair plush toys called Bendy Bears in the early 1920’s. Each of these "Bendy Bears" had an internal metal framework which allowed them to be manipulated. Their plush bears were not introduced until after WW1. By 1931, Deans tended to use artificial silk plush - there was no mohair in the 1935 range. However, gold, blue and pink mohair plush was reintroduced in 1936.

Cut-out Books

Having tried cut-out books, which allowed owners to cut out their own patterns and make their own soft toys, Deans also produced a set of card books that extended the principle to more rigid models.

A 1939 trade advert lists:

  • Princess Elizabeth's Little House
  • The World's Biggest Ship cut-out Book
  • The complete Air Port cut-out Book
  • Toy Town Theatre
  • Our Empire's Defence
  • The House of the Seven Dwarfs

Other products

Deans went on to capitalise on the brand-recognition factor of their nursery ragbooks to produce a wider range of durable items for small children, listed (in 1956) as: soft toys, wheeled toys, dolls, plastic nurseryware, educational toys, boxed games, Junorite stencils and colouring outfits.

WW2 onwards

During WW2, the company gave priority to the production of war supplies, such as life jackets, so few Deans teddy bears were produced during this period.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, main production continued at a factory in Rye, Sussex. The company used the Childsplay Toys trademark until 1965, when Childsplay Ltd (one of the two divisions formed in the 1950’s, along with Merton Toys Ltd) became Deans Childsplay Toys Ltd. The fighting dogs logo was dropped from the label shortly after.

In 1986, Deans was taken over by the toy and gift exporters Plaintalk, forming the Deans Company (1903) Ltd. Two years later, Neil and Barbara Miller bought out the firm and revived the Deans Rag Book Co. Ltd. name, and launched a new limited edition range that used the old "fighting dogs" logo. The firm moved to Pontypool, Wales, in 1974, where they still operate today.

Dean & Son

Dean's Ragbook Co was effectively an offshoot of Dean & Son, which was founded around a century earlier, in around 1800. Dean & Son produced children's books including popup books.

1947: Mickey Mouse Annual published by Dean & Sons

Further reading

  • Pauline Cockrill, The Teddy Bear Encyclopedia (Dorling Kindersley 1993, 2001), ISBN 0751333913
  • Pauline Cockrill, The Ultimate Teddy Bear Book (Dorling Kindersley 1991), ISBN 0863186556

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