From The Hundred Acre Wood To Midtown – Winnie The Pooh in New York

To see one of the most important exhibits at the New York Public Library, skip the main entrance…

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…and take the far-less trafficked 42nd Street door:

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Once past the metal detector, hang a right down the first corridor…

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…and continue on into the Children’s Center.

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See that wooden partition in the center of the center of the room? Take a peek inside…

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…and you’ll find the New York home of Winnie the Pooh (yes, the actual Winnie the Pooh!) and all his friends!

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I first wrote about the Winnie the Pooh exhibit in 2009, shortly after the beloved stuffed animals had been moved from their former home at the Donnell Library Center to the main branch of the NYPL. At the time, their new home was a bit, er, lacking…

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I’d completely forgotten about the post until a month when, out of the blue, author Neil Gaiman linked to it on his Twitter asking “Is the Winnie the Pooh room at the library still this sad?” All of a sudden, the NYPL was the subject of hundreds of angry tweets and retweets about their treatment of Pooh – a big mistake, since the room had since been given a thorough overhaul!

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So in the interest of setting the record straight, I wanted to revisit Pooh’s home in New York City.

The star of the show is of course, Winnie The Pooh…

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…the very teddy bear once owned and played with by Christopher Robin Milne, son of Pooh author A. A. Milne. Christopher was given the Alpha Farnell teddy bear on his first birthday in 1921. Originally named Edward, the bear would later take the name Winnie from a real bear Christopher saw at the London Zoo.

In the mid-1920’s, A. A. Milne began writing poems and stories about Christopher and his friends, which also included little Piglet…

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…Tigger!…

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…everyone’s favorite mopey donkey, Eeyore…

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…and Kanga!

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These are the very animals Christopher once played with in Ashdown Forest (inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood), patches, rips, dirt, and all. Some characters, like Rabbit and Owl, were made up for the stories, while little Roo was lost long ago.

The New York Public Library has nicely decorated the room, with a really cool map on one wall…

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…and drawings taken from Pooh artist E. H. Shepard’s work:

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Later in his life, Christopher gave his toys to editor E. P. Dutton, who in turn donated them to the New York Public Library. After spending years on display at the 53rd Street branch, they were finally given their rightful home in the Main Branch library in 2009.

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Not all are pleased that Winnie the Pooh and friends have wound up in New York City. In 1998, British Member of Parliament Gwyneth Dunwoody visited the dolls and urged that they be returned to the Britain, saying she “detected sadness.”

But, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani soon announced he had a discussion with Pooh, who apparently told him: “I want everyone in Britain and America to know that we’re very, very happy here in New York City.” Mike McCurry, spokesman for Bill Clinton later confirmed: “As the President indicated to some of us, the notion that the United States would lose Winnie is utterly unbearable.”

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If you were ever a kid, Winnie the Pooh probably has a special place in your heart, and I promise that seeing the actual dolls is pretty moving. It really is amazing to think that so much happiness came from such little things.

Be sure to visit next time you’re at the New York Public Library – and of course, it’s free!

-SCOUT

PS – One little quibble…What the heck is this doing here??

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This, apparently, is Lottie the Otter, a new character devised for Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, a modern “authorized” sequel written in 2009.

Ha, guys, come on. If you’re not going to include a Rabbit or Owl or Roo, you don’t get to add in a character no one has ever heard or cares about. No need for shameless advertising in the New York Public Library!

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53 comments

  1. Where is the stuffed Christopher Robin? Glad to know where the gang hang- they do look forlorn and not at all happy.

  2. I think it’s absolutely crucial and appropriate that the electrical outlet behind the case has been childproofed.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I have to admit it got me a little choked up to see the originals that inspired the wonderful stories that so enchanted me as a child, & still do @ 45.
    Then I saw the awful way they were displayed. Unbelievable. I too hope the library plans on something better that befits such a precious gift.

  4. we should decorate this space with a room mural to give these incredible dolls a fitting home. i’d volunteer my time and skill to do it.

  5. I think that a donation is a donation and they’ve lived in NY long enough to call it home.

    Disney, however, will never be forgiven for what they did to Pooh & friends – the books have so much more wit and warmth than any McPooh that place could ever produce.

  6. I think they look completley forlorn, no way would Christopher robin nor A.A.Milne want to see Pooh and friends in a box in an empty room. Bring them back to Britain, to the 100 acre wood where they belong. And give them their own 100 acre wood to sit in, even if still behind a box. As an avid Pooh fan I think it’s a disgrace.

  7. They really should be returned to England, that display case is miserable, dreary, dull.

  8. Winnie the Pooh & Friends also had a brief stop at the Brooklyn Heights branch of the NY Library. The 2nd flr has various exhibits from other branches or museums in NYC. A few months back they had several toys and dolls from the 19th century to present day…with original packaging!

  9. That’s so sad. I loved Winnie the Pooh (still do!) and will read the books to my son in a year or two, but every time I look at one of those wonderful Shepard illustrations I will now think of them sitting there, alone, unloved, untouchable and isolated; no adventures or expotitions, no hunny, haycorns, or pro-things to eat.

    It’s like seeing the dull eyes of the tigers at the zoo, longing for the jungle.

  10. I just discovered your blog, and I am in heaven… I saw Pooh and friends a few years ago when they were at the branch library. You have a keen eye for the magnificent in our magnificent city.

  11. I love pooh I have been reading the originally stories to my son on and off for the last few years…he is 9 and one might think too old for pooh. But i do pooh with a English accent, I consider the fact he still allows me to read pooh to him a privilege. He loves the adventures, so nice to know the original pooh is still around. Thanks for sharing maybe i will have to make a journey to see him and his friend in NYC.

  12. Dave Phelan-Player

    I’d like you all to know that 100 Acre Wood is real. Near Hartfield, East Sussex, UK is Cotchford Farm, where A. A. Milne wrote the Winnie the Pooh stories for his son, Christopher R. Milne. 100 Acre Wood is named for 500 Acre Wood, about a mile from the farm. The bridge where Pooh Sticks was played (and invented) is nearby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poohsticks).

    Hartfield and the Ashdown Forest are well worth a visit for any fans of Pooh and friends. And if the toys are ever liberated from New York, well, I hope they make it back to Hartfield, somehow…

  13. Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, who passed away at Cotchford Farm loved the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and had memorized them. One has to laugh at the sarcastic views of Pooh and his friends. They need to go back to Hartfield. They do look unhappy.

  14. And of course Winnie the Pooh was named for a real bear at the London Zoo named Winnie. The bear was the mascot of a WW I Canadian regiment from Winnipeg, thus Winnie.

  15. The thing is Christopher Robin HATED the books and the story, so no he’d probably just torch the lot, which is probably sadder still.

    I don’t really think there’s any other way to preserve these; they’re stuffed toys and eventually they’re going to crumble. There’s no way to make them look “chipper” without potentially damaging the lot.

  16. Please, please, let the “Pooh room” be a tribute to Milnes work and the original stories and keep the Disney version of Pooh (or should I just call him “Poo”?) out of there.
    Milnes originals have a heart. Labours of love to a loved child. The new Mc Poo is a labour for hire, for the love of cash. While the McPoo might make me laugh, he never makes me feel love. I do think the children are worth real love and not a lesser substitute. The same goes for us grownups.

  17. It is a shame the toys aren’t in the UK where the books were written and are set. It makes little sense to have them in the US (apart from them being a gift a good few decades ago!). They ought to be returned to the rightful home.

  18. Anne D Bernstein

    I noticed the Lotte scandal when I wrote about this display for Roadside America. The NYPL should not be in the product placement business when it comes to these important icons of kid lit, but it is!

    http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/26904

  19. I saw them on a trip to New York after seeing your original post a few years ago, good to see they’ve created a more suitable environment.

  20. I went and asked for the “Pooh Room” and they directed me to the nearest lavatory.
    Just kidding. Anyway, thanks for this interesting post with photos so I don’t have to worry about being accused of lurking around the children’s section of the public library.

    Also, I just realized that if you switch the first letters of “mopey donkey” you get “dopey monkey”.

  21. I agree that these guys should be sent back home where they belong… but not until after I get to visit and pay my respects. The Milne books are amazing to read, even as an adult.

    “He’s Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don’t you know what ‘ther’ means?”
    “Ah, yes, now I do.” I said quickly…

    As always, Scout, you have made my day just a little bit brighter!

  22. As always a great post, as much as I love the NYPL this really makes me miss the Donnell Library on 53rd St. It was so run down…and yet perfectly New York.

  23. Very cool and interesting as usual.

  24. Sure, give the stuffed toys back to the UK — as soon as the British Museum returns the Parthenon Marbles to Greece!

    PS — I hear the marbles seem to be very sad where they are now.

  25. I guess I’m one of the few who disagrees about Lottie. (Full disclosure: I used to be the Contracts Director for Pooh’s U.S. publishing house, and spent many years untangling the web of conflicting rights to the original books and art. I have not held that position, or been employed by that company, since 1994.)

    I don’t see the inclusiono of Lottie as a case of the NYPL doing product placement. The goal of the display is to let Pooh and his friends be visited by their readers. Lottie may not be from the original books (and I’ll admit, she’s not my favorite part of the recent sequel), but she is one of Pooh’s friends. In the new book, the welcoming of Lottie-the-newcomer by the classic characters is sends an important message to children. It is good to include others in our groups, and not close ourselves off from making new friends, no matter how tight the original group may be.

    If you want an example of poorly considered Pooh merchandising, consider the character of Darby from the CGI series My Friends Tigger & Pooh. Disney released toys and other merch featuring her before a single episode of the show had aired. I seem to recall that the producers of Barney did the same thing with Baby Bop before she appeared on-air. That’s a bit much, to my mind.

    In the grand scheme of things, more parents and children will buy Pooh, Tigger and Piglet dolls than they will Lottie dolls. Lottie joining her new friends at the NYPL is not about merchandising. It’s about the entire spirit of the Hundred Acre Wood. That’s how I’ll explain it to my kids when we visit the display next week during Easter break (if they even make any reference to her being there).

  26. It would be a nice goodwill gesture to send Pooh and friends on a exhibition tour of British libraries. The libraries could solicit sponsors and donations from people who attend the exhibit (I hear that funding for their libraries has been reduced). They could even sell special commemorative editions of the books. Pooh might draw quite a crowd. And after the tour he would return to his home in New York. Happiness for everyone.

  27. Greg:

    The problem is that the dolls are very fragile. I touched Pooh when he came out of the display case at Dutton before the move to the NYPL. They would never stand up to the rigors of any sort of tour. Even shipping them to England once would probably damage them badly.

    The sad thing is that Milne divided up his Pooh property with little consideration for other people. His own son, Christopher (Robin) was left with only a token ownership percentage of the property on his father’s death, and he had to sell his share off in his own old age in order to provide for his child.

    The dolls were gifted by Milne to his long-time editor at Dutton, rather than his editor in the U.K. for some reason, and his wishes must still be respected. Just be glad that the dolls are on respectful, no cost, display in a very public, landmark location in a major city, rather than still in their dingy, private display case at the publisher’s office in an obscure Manhattan office building.

  28. Seeing Pooh and friends was one of the highlights of my last trip to NY in 2009. I know why little Roo is missing(Christopher Robin lost him in the woods – really) but always wondered where Rabbit was. (And I agree – Lottie the Otter definitely needs to go!) Actually, the NYPL is chock full of hidden treasures, as far as I am concerned. Definitely the most beautiful building in the city – and its contents are equally impressive. Pooh seemed pretty content to be in the library to me. . .

  29. I have an original Winnie the pooh doll. Spitting image of the one in the case. Not as pristine condition but none the less and original. I can find no information as to how rare it is or how much it’s worth. I guarantee it is real as it was my grandfathers, but would like to know how to prove it original. If anyone has information direct me to it.

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  34. Great article – Pooh and friends can now be found at The ABC of It Exhibit at the New York Public Library – http://childrensbookbin.com/2013/07/19/museumexhibits/

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