Birthday Bear

V&A Museum of Childhood
November 21, 2019

Every November our regular postbag is punctuated with colourful birthday cards. They are often carefully hand-decorated and filled with illustrations, scraps and stickers. The cards come from around the world and are for the attention of a sandy-brown bear with shoe-button eyes, called Little Tommy Tittlemouse. This little mohair bear with long limbs and hand-stitched claws was the much-loved companion of James Gowan. It was James who gave the little bear his rather misleading name, possibly inspired by the earlier nursery rhyme about a little mouse of the same name, which Beatrix Potter illustrated in 1905.

Little Tommy Tittlemouse, about 1908. Stuffed and sewn mohair plush. Museum no. Misc.74-1965
Little Tommy Tittlemouse
Lived in a little house;
He caught fishes
In other men’s ditches
Drawing of Tommy Tittlemouse, watercolour and sepia ink over pencil, by Beatrix Potter, British, about 1905, Linder Collection object no. LC.29.B.1

Little Tommy Tittlemouse was given to James for Christmas in 1908 and stayed by James’s side for almost 60 years. When in 1965 James generously gave his beloved bear to the V&A Museum of Childhood, he asked for him to remain on display so that other children could enjoy this bear too. Each year until James’s death in 1986, he sent a card to Tommy for his birthday on 24 November. Now new museum visitors have taken up the tradition started by James and send Tommy cards each year for his birthday to remind him how special he is to us all.

Birthday cards sent to Little Tommy Tittlemouse

If you want to send Little Tommy Tittlemouse a letter then you can post them to the museum’s address below.

V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9PA.

About the author

V&A Museum of Childhood
November 21, 2019

I am Acting Curator in the Collections Department at the V&A Museum of Childhood. I work on museum exhibitions, displays and community engagement collaborations. My specialist area is children's clothing....

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1 comment so far, view or add yours


Oh how I love this little bear. In the very late 60s I saw Tommy at the “Bethnal Green Museum Of Childhood”, as it was called then. I remember so clearly, spotting him in his little glass display case. My heart was bursting with joy, as I stepped slowly towards him. So tiny, yet so very beautiful and I recall actually crying tears of joy. Now I’m fast approaching 60, but I still frequently think of dear Tommy Tittlemouse to this day.

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