Everyone is acquainted with Winnie-the-Pooh and his many friends like Eeyore and Piglet through the beloved books by A. A. Milne as well as numerous films and television shows. There was in fact a real Winnie-the-Pooh, a stuffed one, and he and his friends are now on exhibit at the New York Public Library.
A. A. Milne, on the lookout for a present for his son Christopher’s first birthday, found what he was looking for at the famous Harrods department store. Christopher – the model, of course, for Christopher Robin – received his new teddy bear, originally named Edward (the proper form of the name Teddy), on August 21, 1921. Later Edward received a new name derived from an actual bear named Winnie that Milne and Christopher had seen at the London Zoo, and a swan dubbed Pooh they saw on a vacation. Over subsequent years other stuffed animal gifts joined the family, including a donkey, a kangaroo and her child, a tiger, and a tiny pig. They came to inspire Milne to create Winnie-the-Pooh, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, and Piglet (Owl and Rabbit didn’t have stuffed counterparts).
Winnie-the-Pooh first appeared in a Christmas story called “The Wrong Sort of Bees,” published in London’s Evening News on Christmas Eve of 1925. The books Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928), with their familiar illustrations by E. H. Shepard, soon followed, and the rest is history.
The stuffed animals were eventually sold (except for little Roo, who had been lost in an apple orchard in the 1930s) to A.A. Milne’s publisher E. P. Dutton, which in turn gave them to the New York Public Library in the 1980s. They’ve been on display at the Library since 1987, but have long been in need of some repairs. The Library turned the restoration work over to The Textile Conservation Workshop, who reinforced worn spots, replaced patches, repaired holes, straightened out necks, fluffed up the plush, and gave all the animals new mounts. After more than a year of conservation, Pooh and friends, now nearing one hundred years old, are looking better than ever.
They are now housed in their own case, against a backdrop of the Hundred Acre Wood where their adventures took place, at the New York Public Library’s Children’s Center in the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building. When you’re next in New York, pay them a visit. I certainly plan to.