Birthday Bear

Young V&A
November 21, 2019

Everyu00a0November our regular postbagu00a0is punctuated with colourfulu00a0birthday 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.u00a0This little mohair bear with long limbs and hand-stitched claws was the much-loved companion of James Gowan. It was James whou00a0gave 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 menu2019s 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 Tittlemouseu00a0was given to Jamesu00a0for Christmas in 1908 and stayed byu00a0Jamesu2019s 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 Jamesu2019s death in 1986, he sentu00a0a card to Tommyu00a0for his birthday on 24 November. Nowu00a0new 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

Young V&A
November 21, 2019

Young V&A Curator. A collection specialist in children's clothing and childhood material culture and creativity. Exhibition Curator for the Young V&A's inaugural exhibition Japan: Myths to Manga. Online Exhibition Producer...

More from Katy Canales
5 comments 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.

I’ve just been telling the story to my 5 year old and how if you look after your bears wonderful adventure may be had to share, she declared that on his birthday we too will send him a card so thank you for giving a bit a magic to a 5 year old

Hi I have been watching the story of tommy tittle mouse the bear on the museum
I was really excited because i had a very large bear collection and have my own tommy tittle mouse it’s so similar .
Over 20 years ago I use to do home care and a lovely lady I use to care for had this little bear all on its own on a shelf and looked a bit lonely .
We use to talk about bears all the time and I use to show her pictures of all my bears all named and loved Then all :)
One day by surprise the lady gave me the bear saying her only son would not see the appeal in him and I would love and look after him which I have .
mine is in similar condition to tommy and was shocked to know mine could be from 1908
I really wanted to know the value of the dear little bear due to making sure when I pass him on and still looked after
His name is bumble bear

Little bears should be loved and cherished for the joy they bring our babies.
A birthday card is the least we can do for this little treasure

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