Reflecting changes in social views of child safety and of household modernisation, the Wendy Boston soft toy company developed the modern washable teddy bear.
Wendy and her husband, Ken Williams, began the company soon after WW2 (1945), in South Wales. The factory then expanded in 1948.
The Wendy Boston company was known for its unjointed teddy bears with their arms outstretched. The other distinctive feature was the invention of screw-locked plastic eyes, in 1948. These were amber-coloured plastic with a small black pupil, and fixed in place by a screw-locked nut on a bolt behind the pupil. This revolutionized the safety of teddy bears, as traditional glass or shoe button eyes posed a danger to small children, if pulled out and swallowed.
The earliest bears were made of mohair plush. However, in 1954 Wendy Boston produced the first fully washable teddy bear, made from synthetic fabrics and stuffed with moulded or granulated foam rubber. Later, though, foam rubber was found to be a fire hazard which emitted toxic fumes when alight.
Hygiene had been promoted throughout the 1930s and 40s, and so a washable teddy was enthusiastically embraced by parents, and so was widely copied by other manufacturers!
In 1960 the company name was changed to Wendy Boston Playsafe Toys Ltd. During the 1960s it produced one quarter of the UK’s soft toy exports. In 1968, the company was bought by Denys Fisher Toys ( Palitoy), but was unable to compete in a changing market, closing in 1976.
1955: ‘PLAYSAFE TOY/Made in GT. BRITAIN/ by WENDY BOSTON’ (printed).
1960s:’WENDY BOSTON/Made in England/Wash in lukewarm suds’ (printed on satin).
1972:’WENDY BOSTON/PLAYSAFE TOY’ (printed on satin).