05 November 2010

Camouflage Teddy Bear Stuffed Toy by Mary Meyer – Early 1940’s

Mary Meyer Stuffed Toys was founded by my Mother and Father in 1933.  I joined the company full time in September1955 and I have many great memories of our early days.

During World War 2 Hans Meyer, my Dad, had a difficult time buying fabrics to make animals pin cushions and stuffed toys.  Businesses that were working for the war effort had a priority to buy materials, which is the way it should be.  Mary Meyer was not making anything for the war effort, so Dad had to pick up cotton fabric where ever he could.

I was 12 years old about that time and I heard a lot of business conversation at the dinner table.  Similar to the talk conversation my children heard, when I was managing Mary Meyer.

The conversation I remember was in regard to the fabric that the camouflage teddy bear was made from.  I am sure camouflage fabric was not a standard cotton material offered on the market.  If it was available it would go directly to a factory making army uniforms.

This was fabric left over after an order of army camouflage uniforms was finished.  When making 10,000 camouflage shirts and pants the maker would receive extra fabric in case of imperfections in the fabric, end of the rolls of fabric and many other reasons to have pieces left.  Dad bought these remnants and gave them to Mother, who then made them into teddy bears.

The pattern for the Camouflage Teddy Bear is a fairly standard pattern of what the stuffed toy industry calls a “cuddle body” with a bear head.  This has been a fairly standard pattern for the past 50 years.  The legs bend at the bottom of the body by not stuffing that area too densely, allowing the legs to flop back and forth.  The whole body is stuffed softly to create a soft, cuddly stuffed toy bear.

The eyes are each composed of 2 pieces of felt – Black in the front and Red in the back, with a French knot as the center of the eye.  The nose and mouth are also sewn on or embroidered with Black embroidery floss – a Black yarn made especially for embroidering details on a toy or embroidery.

The bear was stuffed by hand with cotton, through an opening in the back of the body.  This was then sewn closed by a running stitch.  Beverly, an older Mary Meyer employee of the late 1940’s through 1980 recently told me about how Mother, Mary Meyer, taught her this special stitch  to close the opening through which the toys are stuffed.

About 1946 Beverly started working for Mary Meyer.  She remembers the date well, because her husband, Wendell was just coming home from World War 2.  Her job was to sew the animals closed and attach the eyes and noses and embroider the mouth.  Though an excellent sewer, she asked Mother for pointers on the best way the close the opening through which the toys were stuffed.

Relying on her training at the Manhattan Trade School For Girls in New York City, she showed Beverly a new stitch.  Beverly had never learned this stitch before and she taught all the women she worked with for the next 30 years the stitch that Mother had taught her.

Finally a Red satin neck-ribbon is tied around the neck to make the teddy bear a finish product, ready for shipment to a retail store.

I am always looking for early Mary Meyer products, especially from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  If you have ever seen one of these pictured above, please email me at walter_meyer@marymeyer.com .  I would really like to hear from you.

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