the Teddy Bear
is how the teddy bear came to be!
The Teddy Bear is now so much part of
the teddy bear artists lives
that it's hard to believe he was only invented in 1902, and is named
after Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt, the famous hunting President of
the USA. For years, the claim to have made the first Teddy Bear has
been disputed between America and Germany - and in some ways, both
countries made the first Teddy!
The story begins in Germany, in late October 1902, where Richard
Steiff, a toy designer working for the family firm in Giengen, went
to a touring American circus in search of an idea for a popular new
toy. Among the animals he saw there was a troupe of performing
bears, and they sparked off the original idea. The following day, he
put his thoughts down on paper for Margarete Steiff, his aunt, who
had founded the firm in 1880.
Richard saw an opportunity to make a bear toy, standing upright, and
jointed in a similar way to dolls. There had been bear toys before,
of course - often made from real fur!
- but these had all been copies of real bears on all fours.
Richard's bear would be able to walk upright. Margarete Steiff liked
the idea, and Richard set to work on visiting zoos to sketch the
bears and come up with some proper designs.
Meanwhile, several thousand miles away, the other half of the Teddy
Bear story was about to begin. President Roosevelt, visiting
Mississippi to settle a border dispute, decided to go out hunting
for the day. After several hours, he still hadn't bagged anything,
when one of his aides discovered a lost bear cub wandering through
the woods. Catching it, he tied it to a tree, and brought the
President to it - here was his trophy for the day!To
Roosevelt's eternal credit, he couldn't bring himself to shoot the defenseless
cub, and ordered it to be set free. The press pack
following Roosevelt's visit heard about the story, and it inspired
cartoonist Clifford Berryman to draw a cartoon of the incident,
entitled 'Drawing the Line in Mississippi'. This cartoon was printed
in all the papers, and triggered a moment of inspiration for
Brooklyn candy store owner Morris Michtom. Using Berryman's cartoon
as a guide, he quickly worked out a pattern, and, his wife had soon
put together a little jointed toy bear cub, which Morris put into
his shop window with a copy of the cartoon, and a handwritten notice
saying 'Teddy's Bear'. The Bears sold like wildfire, and within a
year, Michtom closed his candy store, and founded the Ideal Novelty
and Toy Co. - still one of the biggest toy firms in the world over
ninety years later.
In Germany, unaware of what was going on in New York, Richard Steiff
completed the designs for his toy bear, and Margarete quickly ran up
a prototype from scraps of mohair cloth. The bear, christened
'Friend Petz' first appeared in public at the 1903 Spring Toy Fair
at Leipzig, but - to Richard's disappointment, nobody seemed
interested. Legend has it that it was only as Richard was packing
away the stand at the end of the fair, that an American toy buyer
came up to him, seized the bear, and ordered 3000 on the spot. And
so the Teddy Bear was born, and sent on his way to international
Within a few years of their invention, Teddy Bear-mania had swept
the world. Roosevelt adopted the bear cub as his mascot for a
successful re-election campaign, and Steiff redesigned their bears
to create a more appealing face which was to influence all other
Teddy Bears for the next fifty years. While American firms mainly
supplied their home market, the German firms - at first Steiff, and
later competitors such as Hermann and Bing, exported bears across
Europe. Only with the First World War did the Teddy Bear industries
of other countries start to make a mark.
Although some Teddies had been made in Britain from around 1910,
large-scale bear manufacture only began around 1915. Among the first
firms involved were J.K. Farnell, The Deans Rag Book Co, and H.G.
Stone & Co (who sold their bears under the trade name 'Chiltern
Toys'. English bears tended to be softer in look and feel than their
German cousins, and were a major influence throughout the 1920s and
1930s. Farnell bears are generally acknowledged to be the English
equivalent of Steiff, but many other companies, including Deans,
Chiltern, Chad Valley Co. and Merrythought (founded in 1930), made
World War Two brought a halt to bear production across Europe. When
things gradually returned to normal, many new Teddy designs appeared
alongside the traditional jointed bears. One of the most influential
of these new bears was designed by Wendy Boston. Seeing the rapid
spread of washing machines, she created an unjointed, fully washable
bear - a design which was soon copied by all the other
manufacturers. The Wendy Boston design influenced most of the bears
made throughout the 1960s and '70s - and its shape even affected the
look of jointed bears.
From the mid-1970s onwards, more and more adults began collecting
Teddy Bears. At first, they were happy with the modern designs, but
as the illustrious history of the Teddy Bear became clear, some
people began to look for older bears with traditional designs. As
manufacturers realized the interest in old bears, they began to aim
some of their new products at collectors, rather than children.
Steiff produced their first limited edition replica bears in the
early 1980s, and in 1984, we opened the world's first bear Museum in
England. Since then, a new craze of bear collecting has swept the
globe - full circle to the Teddy-mania of the early 1900s!
teddy bear artists hope you enjoyed this little bit of history!
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gallery of teddy bear artists!