The Chad Valley Toy Company had its origins in a printing and bookbinding business that was set up in Birmingham by Anthony Bunn Johnson. Very little is known about this firm, but an original letterhead dated 1850, claims that it had already been established upwards of thity years.
In 1860 Anthony's two sons Joseph and Alfred, set up a similar business trading as Messrs. Johnson Bros. in George St, Birmingham. By 1897 Joseph was running the firm alone with his eldest son Alfred, J. Johnson and they had relocated the business to a newly erected factory in the village of Harbourne, just outside Birmingham. A small stream, the Chad, flowed close by the new factory and it soon aquired the name of The Chad Valley Works, from which the registered trade mark "Chad Valley" is derived.
Johnstone Bros. (Harbourne) Ltd, continued to sell stationery but in addition also began to produce a range of cardboard games and toys which was gradually extended over the years. In 1904 Joseph Johnson died and his eldest son Alfred. J. Johnson took over as chairman and managing director.
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the imports of toys and games into this country stopped. Despite restrictions of material and available personnel Chad Valley used this opportunity to increase its range of products and to expand. The company produced its first soft toys, a range of traditional, jointed, plush Teddy Bears in 1915. By the early 1930's they were advertising a range of bears in fourteen different sizes. 1920's - 30's bears were marked with a printed, celluloid-covered, metal button and/or woven label.
In 1938 the Chad Valley Company was granted the Royal Warrant of Appointment, "Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen". In 1953 upon the succession of Queen Elizabeth 11 this warrant was changed to "Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen Mother".
During the Second World War the Chad Valley factories were used for government contract work and the production of soft toys was drastically cut. Wartime products manufactured by the company were varied but included small wooden instrument cases, cases to contain the barrels for anti aircraft guns, electrical coils, electric starters, auto pilots, children's clothing, hospital tables, tent poles and charts. One factory did continue to produce a limited number of toys, staffed by the firm's oldest employees. They made items such as jig-saw puzzle's, chessmen and dominoes to be used by armed forces and military hospitals all over the world.
At the end of the war the Chad Valley Companies were quickly switched back to toy production. In 1950 the firm was declared a Public Company and expansion continued, but now by taking over other toy firms.
Firms aquired by Chad Valley during this period included:
1951 Hall & Lane Ltd., of Birmingham, a firm that among other things manufactured metal toys;
1954 the family business of Roberts Bros. (Gloucester) Ltd who made the range of Glevum toys.
1958 Acme Stopper & Box Co. Ltd., Birmingham, maker of metal toys.
1967 H.G. Stone & Co. Ltd., Chiltern Toys.
By the 1970's however Chad Valley itself began experiencing problems. Restructuring took place between 1973-75 which saw all but two of the factories owned by the firm closed down. All soft toy manufacturing moved to Pontypool.
Finally in 1978 the firm was taken over by the Leicester based firm Palitoy and in 1988 the chainstore Woolworth's acquired the trade name Chad Valley.