A collection of various Bonzo soft toys

The Chad Valley Bonzos

Little is known about the Chad Valley company's origins.  In 1850 two brothers, Joseph & Alfred Johnson, founded a business specialising in stationary in George Street, Birmingham, England.  It was called Johnson Brothers.  By 1897 the company was being run by Joseph & his son, and moved to the village of Harborne near Birmingham.  At this time, the company changed it's name to Johnson Brothers Harborne and the factory was known as the Chad Valley works, after the nearby Chad river.  As well as stationary, the company started to produce cardboard games.  They prospered & began to produce soft toys soon afterwards.

Chad Valley gained the rights in the early 1920's to begin producing a range of velveteen soft toy Bonzo dogs.  They proved to be a very popular item, and many different varieties were produced - some quite simple and unjointed, others with jointed head & limbs.  Some had stitched faces, others were moulded & more detailed.  All of them had their facial expressions painted onto the velvet base.  Each was finished off with a leather-effect collar with the company's celluloid button trademark on it, which gave the company's name and hometown and the name of the toy.  The earliest Bonzos had a button with the name Bonzo on it & a metal edge surround, the later & more common buttons were just celluloid.



The earlier Bozo button


The later, more commonly seen button

They had a hand-stitched label on their foot which stated that they were a hygienic toy. 

The Bonzos themselves also had a special tag attached to their collar which gave details of the toy & included a facsimile of G.E. Studdy's signature on it.

In 1923, the retail price for the small sitting Bonzo was 8 shillings & sixpence, and the larger jointed, sitting or standing Bonzos were sold for 10 shillings & sixpence.


This chap is 14 inches tall!  He's fully jointed & has a moulded face.  He still has his collar & button, as well as his foot label.

Again fully jointed, but smaller at 7 inches.  This one's face is shaped by stitching.  He does still have all his labels.




This jointed version was made with a dummy in its mouth, as if it were a baby!
A bib around his neck was added for extra effect & was held on with his Chad Valley button.
(Both the bib & dummy on this one have been replaced)
He is also 7 inches tall.

Another pair of fully jointed Bonzos, both of them 7 inches again.  The one on the left, however, is an amazingly rare example - if you look very carefully, you can see his chest is actually autographed by George Studdy himself!


These are simpler, unjointed versions with a stitched face.


This cute one is slightly different, having his eyes drawn open.  He is missing all of his id tags, but is fully jointed.
He stands 6½ inches tall.

One of the smallest Bonzos, this fella is only 4 inches tall.  Only his head is jointed, but as well as his collar & button he still has a tiny hygenic label on the bottom of his left front paw.




Another very cute small Bonzo, this one's called Pious Bonzo.  Only his head is jointed.


Another of the smallest Bonzos, at only 4 inches tall standing!  Despite his minature size, he's fully jointed.




The three little ones together
 
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