During World War I troops from Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada)
were being transported to Europe to fight on the front
lines. On their way there, lieutenant Harry Colebourn
bought a small female black bear cub for $20 from a
hunter who had killed its mother. He named her 'Winnipeg',
after his hometown of Winnipeg, or 'Winnie' for short.
Winnie became the mascot of an army Brigade
but Winnie spent most of her time on loan to the London
Zoo during the war.. Colebourn presented the London
Zoo with Winnie in December 1919 where it became a popular
Milne saw the bear in the London Zoo and started to
write a series of books about Winnie the Pooh, his son
Christopher Robin, and their friends at 100-Aker-Wood.
These other characters, such as Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger,
Kanga and Roo were also based on stuffed animals belonging
to Christopher Robin. Other characters as Rabbit and
Owl were based on animals that lived, just like the
swan Pooh, in the surrounding area of Milne's country
home Cotchford Farm in Ashdown Forest, Sussex, on which
100-Aker-wood was based.
'Winnie-the-Pooh' was published by Methuen on October 14th, 1926, the verses 'Now We are Six' in 1927, and 'The House at Pooh Corner' in1928. All these books were illustrated in a beautiful way by E.H. Shepard, which made the books even more magical. The Pooh-books became firm favourites with old and young alike and have been translated into almost every known language.
A conservative figure for the total sales of the four Methuen editions (including When We Were Very Young) up to the end of 1996 would be over 20 million copies. These figures do not include sales of the four books published by Dutton in Canada and the States, nor the foreign-language editions printed in more than 25 languages the world over!
The Pooh-books had also been favourites of Walt Disney's daughters and it inspired Disney to bring Pooh to film in 1966. In 1977 'the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh', the first feature-length animated film of Pooh was released. In 1993, the Walt Disney Company acknowledged that Pooh Bear is second only to Mickey Mouse in their portfolio of the most-loved and trusted characters known to millions of people all the world over.
Christopher Robin first received the Winnie the Pooh teddy bear as an early early birthday present. Eeyore was brought for Christopher Robin as a Christmas present in 1921 and Piglet was a gift from a neighbour of the Milne's in Chelsea. Tigger didn't show up in the nursery until after 'Now We Are Six' had been written.
The toys made a tour in the United States in 1947. Milne provided a 'birth certificate' to travel with the toys. Dutton Publishing, Milne's American publisher, insured the toys for $50,000, a vast amount of money in those days. They toured the U.S. for about ten years, then ended up in the offices of Dutton. Dutton was able to convince Milne to let the toys remain in America.