Buzzy Bee and Friends

Buzzy Bee & friends


The History of Buzzy Bee™

The Buzzy Bee™ is New Zealand's most famous children's toy.
This brightly coloured, wooden pull-along toy has been handed down from generation to generation and is now regarded as a major New Zealand icon. There would be few New Zealanders that don't remember playing with this charming little toy in their youth.

The exact origins of Buzzy Bee remain a little unclear and several versions of its history exist. Our best research thus far finds the origination of the toy in the very late 1930's in a small workshop in St Benedicts Street in Newton, Auckland. Toy and wood craftsman Maurice Schlesinger, via his company Playcraft Products fashioned the very first Buzzy Bee, which is similar in most respects to the Buzzy Bee children enjoy today. Mr. Schlesinger used a local tradesman in Erin Street in Epsom who had a wood lathe to turn the bodies and acquired the lead free paint from a paint shop at the top of Aye Street in Parnell. He sold his Buzzy Bee (and Mary Lou dolls) to Stan Challenor of C L Stevensons located in Anzac Avenue who in turn sold them to lots of small retailers and shops throughout New Zealand. In the early 1940's Mr. Schlesinger became very ill with spinal meningitis and was forced to close his workshop. However such was the appeal of the Buzzy Bee as a toy that Hec Ramsey, a traveling sales man who was an agent for C L Stevensons took the Buzzy Bee to his brother's wood turning business in New Lynn. There Buzzy Bee™, Mary Lou™ and many of the other famous toys flourished including Oscar Ostrich™, Dorable Duck™, Trikey Tom™, Driver Don™, Elle-Gator™, Peter Pup™, Katie Caterpiller™, Kris Cricket™ and Richard Rabbit™, to name a few.

The postwar baby boom and import restrictions saw yearly sales of Buzzy Bee™ increase rapidly. However following a fire at the New Lynn factory in the late 1970's, the Buzzy Bee™ operation was sold into a number of different hands before the trade mark and device was sold to Lion Rock Ventures Limited, its current owner in 2004.

One such account of the history of Buzzy Bee claims a similar toy was bought from the USA to New Zealand by the US troops in 1941 and was then modified to the New Zealand version of Buzzy Bee. Following exhaustive research this story has produced very little evidence to substantiate it and also relies on the implausible notion that young US soldiers would take an infant toy as an essential item to war. What seems much more probable is that the troops took our toy back to the US for their sweethearts and children (as Fisher Price released a similar toy in the mid 1950's).

Such is New Zealand's love affair with Buzzy Bee™ that it has appeared as the subject of paintings, sculptures, television advertisements, postal stamps (twice), magazine covers, school murals and parades. Buzzy Bee™ is now often presented by New Zealand dignitaries to VIP's with children who are visiting New Zealand. Notable recipients include the future King of England, Prince William, Princess Aiko from Japan and the Spanish Royal family.

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