The first of China’s giant pandas to arrive in the West was a three-month-old male cub named Su Lin who found a home at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. The year was 1936. In the spring of 1937, England’s Merrythought Toy Company began marketing a collection of panda toys. Customers went wild. The very next year “panda fever” escalated across the UK and throughout the West when Ming-Ming became the first giant panda to settle in England.
Merrythought responded by introducing a new grouping of soft toy pandas as part of its 1939 product line — including the 13” example featured here. Described in company literature as a “pram [baby buggy] toy,” this furry creature embodies all the qualities that have kept the Merryhought factories humming since 1930!
Made of quality mohair, the toy is fully jointed and retains its original black felt paw pads, stitched nose and mouth and glass eyes. The toy’s squeaker is no longer working but it’s still there. As the photos show, this little panda retains the original Merrythought tag that was used prior to World War II, along with a tag that reads REGD. DES No. 82156 — indicating that this was a registered design. The gifted designer Florence Atwood was the head of design at the time, and this may be one of her creations. At any rate, this is a lovely early stuffed toy in excellent original condition.
(Note from Jean: Don’t miss the Merrythought parrets featured in the Bears & Toys Gallery.)