Have you heard of Amersham Toys and Hugmee bears?
As far back as 1908, a German toymaker, Joseph Eisenmann started a new branch to make toys at Bellingdon Road, Chesham, initially making dolls but later adding a range of Teddies to their range. The factory was inherited in 1919 on Joseph’s death by his son-in-law, Leon Rees, who then moved the factory to Waterside in Chesham, going into partnership with Harry Stone. It was here in 1923 that they started making the very popular Hugmee bears, which remained in production until 1967.
After a break in toy-making during the war, the Chesham factory moved from Waterside to the Amersham works on Moor Road in Chesham. At the time our pastry set was produced, the factory was staffed almost entirely by single young ladies.
In Amersham Museum there is also a doll’s house, one of the many wooden items they produced, such as doll’s house furniture, blackboards and easels, and a range of sports goods. At one time the factory employed 120 people and despatched some 600 tennis rackets each week. They also produced a range of wheeled toys, such as dolls’ pushchairs, pedal cars, wheelbarrows and stuffed animals on wheels.
It was, however, for the ‘Hugmee’ bears that the company was most famous. When a new factory was opened in Tottenham, a ‘Silky Teddy’ was brought out, and then a ‘Chubby’ bear complete with voice box, and a fawn plush ‘Cubby’ bear. Later the design of bears evolved, with longer shaved muzzles, and a variety of coloured fur – blue and pink. Later bears were provided with a growling noise, or squeakers or bellows-style music boxes.
In the British Industries Fair in 1947, the company was listed as manufacturers of ”Chiltern” Toys, “Hugmee” Teddy Bears and Plush Animals. “Panurge Pets” and animals on Wheels, Sheepskin Toys and Cuddly Dolls and in 1960, the company featured in Good Housekeeping.
When Leon Rees died in 1963 the factory was taken over by another group, which in 1967 became a subsidiary of Chad Valley.
It is interesting to note that there were several toymakers long before this, including Chesham Wooden Toy Works and the Happy Day Toy Company in Severalls Avenue (off the Berkhamsted Road).