Mr William Simpson (1915-2013) was a keen collector of teddy bears. His first teddy bear named Rupert, bought in 1917 from Mrs Kennedy’s wool shop in Putney, was given to him as a present on his 2nd Christmas.
Throughout his life he went on to gradually build up a collection of 269 teddy bears. Many of which he bought for himself and many others were given to him as gifts from his friends and family.
Each teddy bear has a card handwritten by Mr Simpson explaining the teddy bears background. He gave each of his teddy bears a name and a personality, and often dressed them in homemade clothes or accessories to illustrate this. For example there is Tino with his yellow racing scarf who ‘insists on acting as [the car’s] mascot whenever the car is used’, or Farther Ted and the 4 choir bears dressed in their cassocks and handmade medallions.
As a collection they show the history and development of teddy bears from 1908 to the early 2000’s.
Mr Simpson wasn’t only a collector of teddy bears but he was also a historian of toys. He published many books and articles and gave talks on the history of teddy bears.
In 2008, Mr Simpson bequeathed the majority of his bear collection to Hampshire County Museums Service. In 2013, Mr Simpson died, leaving the remainder of his collection to the museums service, along with a legacy for their care and display. Honouring Mr Simpson’s bequest, the bears will all be reunited in Mr Simpson’s Teddy Bear Museum, opening later this year at Milestones Museum. You can now explore his teddies online.