Real Toys of Winnie the Pooh
Christopher Robin received that most famous of teddy bears, Winnie the Pooh, as a present for his first birthday. It is thought that he was made at the J.K. Farnell factory, which made bears exclusively for Harrod's in the 1920's. Eeyore was brought for Christopher Robin as a Christmas present in 1921 and Piglet was a gift from a neighbor of the Milne family in Chelsea. Kanga and Roo appeared in the nursery in 1925 while Tigger didn't show up in the nursery until after 'Now We Are Six' had been written. A.A. Milne chose Tigger, as well as Kanga and Roo, because he wanted to extend the number of animals in his stories.
These toys made a tour of the United States in 1947. Milne provided a 'birth certificate' to travel with the toys. Dutton Publishing, Milne's American publisher, insured the toys for $50,000, a vast amount of money in those days. They toured the U.S. for about ten years and ended up in the offices of Dutton. Dutton was able to convince Milne to let the toys remain in America, where they remained here until 1969. At this time, they made a short trip to England (flying as VIPs in a Concorde) for a Shepard exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
For many years, the original Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga and Eeyore were lovingly cared for by Elliott Graham at the offices of E.P. Dutton in New York. After reading a newspaper article reporting that Dutton had taken possession of the 'stuffed animals,' Elliott applied for and was given a job at the publisher, where he quickly became the official guardian to Pooh and his companions. On September 11th, 1987 the toys found a new home at the Central Children's Room at the Donnel Center, a branch of the New York City Library, where they are on display in a large glass case inside a room with a viewing window. The toys have been left uncleaned and un-mended and look as if they are awaiting the return of Christopher Robin.
Sadly Roo is one of the original toys that has not been preserved. His disappearance was described by A.A. Milne in the birth certificate; "Roo is believed to be somewhere in Sussex, but no details are available. A subsequent dog who became part of the establishment, took him for a walk once and left him in a hollow tree, from which he was extracted a year later. But the spirit of adventure was now strong upon him and soon afterwards he was off again, whether or not with the co-operation of the dog this time is not known".
People may wonder about Owl and Rabbit. It is interesting to point out that these were never real toys but still inhabitants of 100-Acre Wood. Rabbit says to Owl "you and I must solve this because we have brains, the others have just fluff" - very literal indeed!
Interestingly, Ernest Shepard's beautiful line drawings of Pooh were not inspired by Christopher Robin's bear, but by Growler, the much-loved bear belonging to the artist's son, Graham. Years later, the tired and worn bear lost a fight with a Scottie dog in a Montreal garden, where he had gone to live with Minette, Shepard's granddaughter.
If anyone has plans to visit Christopher Milne's stuffed animals in New York, here is the address and hours for viewing. Photo's are allowed for personal use, but no flash photography is permitted. For more information check the site of the New York Public Library. The original stuffed toys were formally located at the 53rd Street New York Public Library, but moved to its current location in 2009.
Children's Center at 42nd Street
Ground Floor, Room 84
The New York Public Library
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018-2788