This is Kiwidutch explaining some of the iconic Kiwiana items as depicted on a beautiful mural in the small North Island town of Otorohanga.
It’s at this point that I realise that the sum total of my knowledge about Monarch Butterflies would fit on less space than a postage stamp and I’m not talking about a stamp like the butterfly one featured in this recent post: http://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/?s=stamp+quilt (the Monarch Butterfly is featured near the bottom of that post)
Instead I will turn to Wikipedia, which tells me:
“The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae), in the family Nymphalidae. It is perhaps the best known of all North American butterflies. Since the 19th century, it has been found in New Zealand, and in Australia since 1871 where it is called the Wanderer.
It is resident in the Canary Islands, the Azores, and Madeira, and is found as an occasional migrant in Western Europe and a rare migrant in the United Kingdom. Its wings feature an easily recognizable orange and black pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9–10.2 centimetres (3½–4 in).
(The Viceroy butterfly has a similar size, color, and pattern, but can be distinguished by an extra black stripe across the hind wing.) “
It’s a mystery to me how this butterfly, seemingly not originally native to New Zealand has become one of the counties icons… mind you the Statue of Liberty hailed from France and there is an original on the Seine River in Paris, and that didn’t stop it from becoming an icon in America either so, hey in the best tradition of the mystery of icons… why not? Let’s just celebrate that it now is.
I grew up seeing these butterfly’s regularly in our garden, in My Grandparents garden and well… all over the place. They’ve been featured on postage stamps and I even (incorrectly) assumed that since they were a New Zealand icon that they must be native to New Zealand. See? in researching something for you, I even educated myself!
Then on to the Buzzy Bee… it’s everywhere, and everyone I know knows and loves it, but funnily enough no one I know knew the history of it and since I didn’t either I didn’t feel too bad. Wanting to know more I went in search of someone on the internet who did…
“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 Scheslinger, 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. Scheslinger 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. Scheslinger 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.
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.
Lion Rock Ventures has now brought these wonderful wooden characters to life in a major TV series and in new books that follow the inaugural Buzzy Bee stage production presented in 2007. The company is focused on launching the brand into other countries and making our famous toy world famous…and not just in New Zealand.“
Yes… I had one of these toys as a child too… such was their popularity that I think every Kiwi kid did!
Himself and I bought back a small version in the form of a mobile for our kids but sadly it met sticky end because Little Mr discovered that the proper toy in New Zealand had wings that turned around and attempted to do the same on ours which was hung at a height his hands could just reach, but not low enough for him to get tangled in. On the small version the wings weren’t meant to move, so by standing on his tip-toes he systematically broke all the wings off as he tried to “get them to work”. Lesson to us as parents: just get the real thing.