Most people want to know how the Teddy Edward story began. The original teddy bear belonged to Sarah the then two-year-old daughter of Patrick and Mollie Matthews. Patrick Matthews, one time manager of Vogue Magazine Studios, had taken a photograph of Cecil Beaton's cat sitting in a flower bed and a framed enlargement was hanging in Sarah's bedroom. One day Mollie suggested that it might be a good idea to take photographs of several soft toys for children's nurseries - or even better do a book about Teddy Edward and his friends.
The present Teddy Edward is not the original bear, who in the early days acted as Sarah's constant companion as well as photographic model ; like all well loved teddy bears the original teddy began to show signs of wear. And so a new bear was found but visually he didn't look exactly like the original Teddy Edward. So the two of them were taken off to the doll's hospital where Teddy Edward Mark 11 had his face lifted so that you couldn't tell the difference between the two of them. The original Teddy Edward is still much loved and lives in cosy retirement in Sarah's room.
Five Teddy Edward books were published in the early 1960's and over 250,000 books were sold. Enid Blyton praised them and said that Teddy Edward seemed to do all the things that every child would want their own teddy bears to do. Postcards also appeared at that time and have been on sale ever since.
Due to pressure of other work the initial success was not followed up although unknown to Patrick Matthews the BBC had considered putting Teddy Edward on television in 1965. During these years Patrick Matthews was successively Managing Director of a very successful film production company, a director of Condé Nast Publications (who publish Vogue and House & Garden magazines) and Managing Director of Vogue Studios - all jobs that were subsequently to be very helpful to the Teddy Edward project.
On his retirement in 1971 Patrick Matthews approached the BBC who commissioned him to make thirteen Teddy Edward episodes for their successful "Watch with Mother" series for younger viewers. The films were made in many places, usually dictated by good weather conditions, including Greece, Spain, France, Switzerland, the West coast of Ireland and around the Matthews' charming water bailiff's cottage where there are so many ideal locations for photography.
Books followed the television programmes, which are now in their sixth year, and over 30 books will have been published by the end of 1978 and nearly a million copies will have been sold. Teddy Edward appears on Norwegian and New Zealand television - books about Teddy Edward have always sold well in New Zealand and Australia. Patrick Matthews tells an amusing story about the young waitresses in his Swiss hotel who asked if he was photographing Teddy Edward. It transpired that they were young New Zealanders working their way round the world who had been brought up on the original Teddy Edward books when they were children.
The films and books are written for three to six-year-olds and unlike some of Teddy Edward's competitors are not aimed at the teenage/grown-up market. The Matthews maintain that this is an advantage because crazes can disappear as fast as they appear, whereas a teddy bear is loved by successive generations of children who have not yet learned about transitory fashions.
A relatively new development is Teddy Edward's 'penchant' for travel. During the making of the books and BBC films Teddy Edward visited 22 countries, thus earning for himself the title of a "Much Travelled Bear". Since then Patrick and Mollie Matthews have broadened the scope of Teddy Edward's activities. First Teddy Edward, and Patrick who takes all the photographs, did a 500 mile journey down the River Niger in a pirogue, sleeping out at nights in the desert under the stars, visiting Timbuctoo, watched the fabulous and seldom seen Dogon dancers, and travelled on through the Sahara Desert - 130 F by day and 40 F by night - rubbing shoulders with those very dignified tribes the Tuaregs, Bozos and Peuhls.
Having visited Timbuctoo, a name to conjure with, it was inevitable that Teddy Edward should go to Khatmandu (Patrick and Mollie Matthews had been there some years before) with the ultimate objective, as an inveterate traveller, of seeing the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.
And so it was, as Teddy Edward boarded the Air India Jumbo jet en route for India and the Himilayas, that he was given the V I B treatment ( Very Important Bear ). The story of his visit to the 'Roof of the World' is told in his recent book, which sold 30,000 copies in six months and is a fitting sequel to his book on Timbuctoo, which was an equal success in publishing terms.
An interesting development arising out of his travels is that Teddy Edward was invited to write of his Saharan travels in the travel issue of Harpers/Queen and he very much hopes to follow up with a description of his Everest trip.
Why all this excitement about a teddy bear? Well first of all Teddy Edward is no ordinary bear with his medal which he won skiing, but it is a fact that teddy bears have been international characters ever since Teddy Roosevelt invented the teddy bear. Generations of children have had and loved teddy bears - there are even teddy bear clubs like 'The Good Bears of the World' of which Teddy Edward is a distinguished member - and there is really no sign that the modern child will ever desert them.