Duck-shaped clothes brush

Selected because, despite being a memorable object, the only thing we know for sure about this duck is that it was made in England.

Duck-shaped clothes brush
case solved
Case number - AIBDC : 0_6486
A duck-shaped clothes brush from circa 1950s. The duck's head and neck form the handle of the brush which lifts out of the body-shaped holder. The majority of the duck is formed from a mottled blue-grey and cream plastic.
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DesignerUnknown - Wanted
ManufacturerUnknown - Wanted
Date1950 - 1959 (circa) - Wanted
Dimensionsheight 280 mm, width 100 mm, depth 150 mm
Materialsplastic, unidentified, bristle - Wanted
Methodunknown - Wanted
Coloursblue, black
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AIBDC : 0_6486 Duck-shaped clothes brush I mean, why wouldn't you want a brush in the shape of a duck? Find it here on


Ian Holdsworth, of cocktail shaker fame, is taking on this duck. In his own words: 'I thought that the next one of your 10 Most Wanted that I would look at would be the duck clothes brush – an enigmatic object for a number of reasons. I have seen many of them, and in a very wide colour range. Thirty years ago if you went to Camden antiques market pretty much every stall would have one. They always cost a fiver. Nowadays you can find them in 1950s shops, and in good condition they cost twenty to thirty pounds. They must have been made in great numbers, and be fairly indestructible, to be so plentiful. Generally they are fairly well scorned in the antiques trade. Moulded into the base you will find ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’. Moulded into the brush back you will find ‘MADE IN ENGLAND. BRISTLE.’ or sometimes ‘ENGLAND. ALL HAIR’. I don’t think these different markings denote different manufacturers, but rather, I suggest, different periods of manufacture. These rather unaesthetic objects contain a mystery. Moulded into the base, between the duck’s feet, is an egg shaped depression. Many, many people have told me that this is where the egg goes. They say that when the ducks were sold they were sold with an egg that sat in this egg shaped dip. They cannot tell you what the egg did or what it was made of. In fact Pete Ward in his book 'Fantastic Plastic' states ‘A few lucky collectors have the plastic egg which nestled in a hollow in the base.’ I don’t believe Pete Ward. I must have seen hundreds of these ducks but I have never seen an egg. Neither has any antique dealer or specialist plastics dealer that I know ever seen an egg. I think that the egg is a myth. But that does not explain the depression in the base – apart from it being the ubiquitous pin tray. Perhaps putting some of this text up on your site will encourage people to answer this question (especially those that have an egg!). The other mystery about this object is who made it. I have asked a lot of knowledgeable people but no one seems to know – even though it was not that long ago that it was in production. You would have thought that such an ‘innovative’ item would at least have carried a design registration number. The next time I go to the PHS library I will have a look through the 1950s ‘Plastics Trader’ magazines to see if I can find a reference to it. Finally – I always thought this was a product of the 1950s although I have often heard people refer to it as Art Deco (!). I was therefore surprised to find an advertisement for it in the Washington DC newspaper ‘The Spokesman Review’ dated December 4th 1961. The advert presumably shows the brush as you would buy it. It does not show an egg!’ He also sent an image. I hope to upload it soon. It tells us that it sold in the US for 4.95. It doesn’t specify whether that is dollars but if it is that would have been a lot of money. Reference: Ward, P. 1997. Fantastic Plastic. London. Apple Press. ISBN 185076-794-7 Page 32.


Ian Holdsworth is steaming along he’s found the manufacturer. Brilliant stuff. Ian wrote: ‘I have attached photos of a couple of duck shaped clothes brushes with original sales tags. One side of the tag reads; Dandy Duck Clothes Brush, Pure Bristle. Made in England. And on the other side, Made by Versabrush, Slough England. So; Product name - Dandy Duck Clothes Brush Manufacturer – Versabrush.'


More from Ian: 'I'm impressed. One day I send an email saying I could never find out the manufacturer. Next day I send an email saying I found it. Your game made me make the effort to find out something I always kind of wanted to know. And solve the riddle of the egg. I had a chat to Sylvia Katz today about the materials used to make the duck brush. She has several at home and will do some investigation. In the mean time, we think perhaps; base - compression moulded phenol formaldehyde brush back - compression moulded phenol formaldehyde brush handle - wood duck body and feet - injection moulded polythene (?) brush - pig bristle Finding out the actual designer (if there was one) would be a much harder nut to crack. Versabrush as a company seem to have no digital legacy. Slough Local History Online have no company records. There is an American product called Versa Brush used in dentistry, but that is probably just a coincidence. I'll email Slough archive to see if they have anything.'


Dandy Duck! You couldn't make this up. Brilliant!


Ian wrote to Slough Libraries and says: ' I have also heard back from Sabiha Barakat, Enquiry Officer at Slough libraries. They have nothing in any of their archives or collections relating to Versabrush. So unless you get an email from a relative of someone who worked there I don't think that we are ever going to find a specific designer. There probably wasn't one anyway - these things tend to be a company team effort. I would suggest a designation of 'designed and made by Versabrush.'


Ian has been making enquiries about its material: 'I have heard from Sylvia regarding the materials used in the duck brush construction. She has done some testing and suggests cellulose acetate for the handle and polythene for the flexible body, and for the base PVC. She is going to meet Colin Wiliamson soon and will get his opinion. As you know Colin is excellent at this sort of thing.'


Sylvia and Colin have met up and looked very carefully at Dandy Duck. They agreed on Dandy Duck's materials and methods of manfacture: 'Body: injection moulded Low Density Polyethylene Brush: solid injection moulded cellulose acetate and bristle Base: injection moulded flexible PVC' I need to ask about solid injection moulding... will do that.


At one point it was thought that the cellulose acetate might be a skin over a wooden inner. But no, it is made of solid cellulose acetate.


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A nice comment from Ian15.mdx: Came across this in the Moulded Plastics Trader for May 1956. Also made in Slough but by a company called Hughes Brushes Ltd. Perhaps in the mid 1950s Slough was a hot bed of anthropomorphic brush design.


There had to be a reason why it wasn't bombed...


Slough does seem to have been a hotbed of duck brush production. Ian15.mdx has found out that the other side of the label on the blue version of the Dandy featured says it was, like the penguin, also made by Hughes Brushes Ltd and that Hughes Brushes also made brushes in the shape of swans.


'Seems like Dandy Duck was the start of a whole aviary.' writes Ian15.mdx.


I have had an email from Ken Doughty from the Society of Brushmakers. Ken writes ‘I had an email from you (several months ago) about Versabrush. My PC died and I have had to buy a new one. I believe the company may still be in Reading under the name Kersten, who use the Versabrush name for their products. They make self propelled cleaning vehicles’. So I have emailed Kersten to see what they know.

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Case notes

Susan Lambert's picture

Duck-shaped clothes brush, Case AIBDC : 0_6486

An American advertisement found, dated 4 Dec 1961


 Ian15.mdx has taken on the duck. He has found this advertisement from The Washington DC paper, The Spokesman Review, 4 December 1961,  that tells us it was in production later than we might have thought and also suggests that the concave moulding never held the apocryphal egg.

Advert for 'Duck clothes brush'

Reference: Ward, P. 1997. Fantastic Plastic, London. Apple Press. ISBN 185076-794-7  Page 32.

We still need to find out who designed and made it, how it was made and what plastics were used.


Dandy duck clothes brush was made by Versabrush of Slough


Great stuff   Ian15.mdx. Proof of our duck's name and its manufacturer is in the sales label round its ankle. You are also gathering a record of the range of colours in which they were made. Wonderful context for MoDiP's Dandy duck.

Photo of 'Duck-shaped clothes brush' showing sales tag around left ankle.

Sales tag, reading 'Dandy Duck clothes brush'

The back of the sales tag,reading ;Made by Versabrush'.

Two duck-shaped clothes brushes, one removed from its holder to show how they fit together.

Images downloaded from ebay.


What headway in 24 hours. We still need the designer, a date when production began and more information on its materials and method of manufacture.


Slough Libraries have no records of Versabrush


Ian15.mdx contacted Slough Libraries but they have no holdings relating to Versabrush.


Headway rather slower now and probably dependent on finding someone who worked at Versabrush. 


Materials and manufacturing method proposed


 Plastician has conferred  with another expert and their view is that the body of the duck is made of low density polyethylene, the brush of cellulose acetate and bristle, and the base of polyvinyl chloride, all polymers injection moulded.

We are still looking for a designer and does Dandy Duck really date from the 1960s rather than the 1950s?


Is anything quite as it seems? Hughes Brushes also made Dandy Duck


 Ian15.mdx has made another discovery. Have a look at the label on the blue version of Dandy reproduced above. If you turn it over this is what it says:


What was the relationship between Versabruch and Hughes Brushes Ltd?

Does anyone know the story of the relationship between Versabrush and Hughes Brushes Ltd, both of Slough? It seems Hughes was quite a big establishment. Does the similarity of the labels suggest a take over? They also made penguin and swan shaped brushes:

We are still looking for a designer and does Dandy Duck really date from the 1960s rather than the 1950s? Now we also want to know the relationship between Versabrush and Hughes.

Case Solved

Title: Dandy Duck

Designer: Versabrush Design Office

Date: in production in 1961 in USA

Manufacturer: Versabrush, and subsequently Hughes Brushes, both of Slough, UK

Materials: low density polyethylene, PVC, cellulose acetate

Method: injection moulded

Participating agents: Ian Holdsworth, Plastician, Sylvia Katz