This bear was made by the London company, J. K. Farnell. First based in Notting Hill, the company was founded by a silk merchant, John Kirby Farnell, in 1840 to make small household items such as pin cushions and tea cosies.
After his death his children, Henry and Agnes, continued the family business and moved to Acton in West London. Here they started to make soft toys using materials such as rabbit skin. They were soon using the more usual mohair and the company is credited with producing the first British teddy bear in 1906.
Farnell quickly established itself as one of the leading manufacturers of teddy bears and registered the Alpha trademark in 1925. Its factory was destroyed twice, once by fire in 1934 and once by bombing in 1940. It survived both these disasters but eventually ceased trading in the 1960s.
Early Farnell bears, such as this one, had a lot of the same characteristics as German bears, such as pointed muzzles, long limbs and humps on the top of their backs. Farnell also first used black boot button eyes but soon changed to painted glass ones.
This bear is made of blonde mohair plush and is fully jointed. The eyes are glass and the nose, mouth and claws are stitched with black wool. This bear has the webbed claws that are characteristic of Farnell and other early British bears. The feet pads are felt and are reinforced with card. The bear is dressed in a cotton shirt and a navy blue sailor’s outfit. It was dressed soon after it was made. The shirt was made by nuns on the island of Malta and the sailor’s jacket has several appropriate medal ribbons. They include the Queen Victoria Jubilee Medal, either the Second China Medal (1857-1860) or the Boxer Rising Medal (1900), and the Queen’s South Africa Medal (1899-1901) for the Boer War.