Shanghai Doll Factory (SDF) Post WW2 Teddy Bear
I was bought a Steiff teddy bear in my 30’s and called him ‘Yogi’. I know its not a very original name but it had a strong personal connection… Since then I have gone on to acquire Steiffs, Hermanns, Merrythought, and Deans teddy bears. In the process you do start to recognise the manufacturer’s characteristics but I am by no means an expert!
As a committed arctophile (lover and collector of Teddy Bears), I was becoming really frustrated at not being able to trace the manufacturer of my better half’s childhood teddy ‘Dodo’ (as in the extinct bird): a moth eaten well loved bear, whose arms and legs became adrift and were sewn back on several times by my Mum-in-law. The only real clue I had to go on was the small red fabric tongue sticking out of it’s mouth; surely that must be a recognisable feature?
I trawled for days on the internet and, through my Teddy Bear encyclopaedia, I had a feeling that it was made by the Shanghai Doll Factory (SDF), China. I went on to Pinterest, and ‘lo and behold’, there he was! (See image below courtesy of mandicrafts.blogspot.co.uk). Only in Dodo’s case, he was missing all his labels but did have his ribbon and hanging string. Yes, I had traced his manufacturer! Childhood memories of ‘Dodo’ caused us to nostalgically collect several of these iconic teddy bears, including a rare elephant version, which, along with Dodo, we will never part with. We have, however, agreed to part with the teddy bear in the main picture at the top of the blog.
Knowing very little about the history of SDF I decided to do some more digging.
It was really only after WWII Asian soft toys began to appear in North America and Europe. One of the more popular and prolific brands was the Shanghai Doll Factory; Shanghai “Dolls” Factory or Shanghai “Toy” Factory or SDF were also names used by this company. They were at their most popular from the 1950s to 1970s but imports ceased after this.
The soft toys were made out of dense pure wool plush, which is similar to mohair plush but not quite as soft and is cheaper to manufacture. Early bears were made with stitched noses, or molded rubber noses and glass eyes, which proved unsafe and were replaced by plastic safety eyes. SDF Teddy Bears were usually fully jointed. This blonde teddy by SDF, is typically the style design and colour that is most commonly found but, as you can see, looks nothing like Dodo!
Soft toys were identified with two labels
- a cloth embroidered seam label, usually in an arm seam or side seam. One side is embroidered “Pure Wool” in English, and the other side is embroidered with Chinese characters.
- A paper rosette swing tag in gold, white, black and red.
Some labels had the factory’s address: 159 Puan Road, Shanghai and item numbers printed or stamped on the reverse.
Bears and animals were made with both closed and opened mouths, often with a small red fabric tongue, making them very popular with small children and babies who love sticking out their tongues in imitation!
In the UK, these bears were often seen hanging by the distinctive red and white striped string from prams and cots, and were referred to as ‘pram toys’. The string also tended to disappear as babies found chewing them irresistible!
My better half and Mum-in-law are really pleased that they now know who made Dodo. He’s not just a 50 year old bear bought from Dewsbury Market in West Yorkshire England; like Paddington he travelled from a far distant land!