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Teddy Bear History...

Celebrating the teddy bear... See here a detailed 100 year history of the teddy bear including a time line from 1902 -2002...

In late October 1902, Richard Steiff, a toy designer was working for his family firm in Giengen, visited the USA in search of ideas for new toys and went to see a touring American circus . Among the performing animals he saw there was a troupe of bears. They sparked off new ideas and he saw the possibility of making a bear toy jointed in a similiar way to the dolls that they produced. He put his thoughts down on paper for his aunt, Margarete Steiff, who had founded the firm in 1880. She liked the idea and Richard set to work on visiting zoo’s to sketch the bears.

There had been bear toys before, often made from real fur and mostly on wheels, but these had all been copies of real bears on all fours. Richard Steiff wanted his bear to be able to stand upright.

In November 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt was relaxing during a trip to settle a border dispute in Mississippi and was taking part in a hunting trip in the state of Mississippi. Having had no luck in finding a bear, members of the presidential hunting party tracked and caught a small black bear which, as the story goes, was a motherless cub. They tied it to a tree and then “invited” the President to shoot it as a trophy of his visit. When the president arrived on the scene he refused to shoot the bear, considering it to be unsportsmanlike.

The incident caused Clifford K Berryman to draw a cartoon titled “Drawing The Line in Mississippi” which linked the incident to the political dispute that had taken President Roosevelt to Mississippi in the first place. The cartoon appeared in the Washington Post on the 16th November 1902

The cartoon drew immediate attention. In Brooklyn, NY, shopkeeper Morris Michtom displayed 2 toy bears in the window of his Stationary and Novelty store. The bears had been made by his wife Rose Michtom from black plush stuffed excelsior and finished with black button eyes.

Michtom soon recognized the immediate popularity of the new toy. He requested and received permission from President Roosevelt personally to call them Teddy's Bears.

As demand for them increased, Michtom moved his business to a loft where, with the backing of the Butler Brothers opened the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, still one of the largest American toy companies today.

About the same time as it was born in the United States, the Teddy Bear was also born in Giengen in Germany. The Steiff Company of Giengen first introduced the stuffed jointed bear BAR 55PB, christened “Friend Petz” at the 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair. It was here where a New York Toy Importer, Hermann Borgford of George Borgford & Co.ordered several thousand of the Steiff bears for shipping to the USA because of the popularity of the “teddy’s bear” toy there.

While other stories have been told regarding the birth of this wonderful toy, the amazing coincidence of the simultaneous births in Brooklyn and Giengen are substantiated and the world has come to know this stuffed animal by the American name of Teddy Bear. It is now accepted by everyone that this came from the above story about President Roosevelt.

Teddy Bear Timeline

1902 - The American President Theodore Roosevelt refuses to shoot a bear cub while hunting in Mississippi and the incident makes national news. The famous cartoon of the incident by Clifford Berryman is published in the Washington Post on November 16th 1902.

1902 - Richard Steiff travels to the USA, reputedly in October 1902, to look for new ideas for toys and see bears in a travelling circus. He sketches an idea of an upright bear and sends it to his aunt - Margarete Steiff, a German stuffed toy manufacturer since 1880.

1903 - An American buyer, Herman Borgford, at a Leipzig trade show, recognizing the public interest in the Roosevelt story, buys nearly 3000 Steiff bears for shipping to the United States of America.
Stuffed toys were an active cottage industry by the end of the nineteenth century. One such company was founded by Margarete Steiff. At the turn of the century, they introduced a new line - a stuffed bear which rested on all four legs. The Steiff bear did not capture the hearts of the people of Germany however and it is suggested that she might have discontinued the line entirely, except for an amazing coincidence. An American buyer for a New York department store happened upon the Steiff booth at the Leipzig trade show in March 1903, and to the astonishment of Margarete Steiff, he ordered nearly 3000 bears for the burgeoning American market where, because of the Roosevelt incident, the stuffed “teddys bear” had become an amazingly popular toy.

1905 - Steiff’s famous “Button in the Ear” trademark is first seen.

1906 - Other toy manufacturers recognise the amazing success of the “teddy Bear” and start manufacturing their own versions.

1907 - Steiff declares this year as “Barenjahre” - The year of the Bear.

1907 - A book entitled "Teddy Bear" published by Dean's Rag Book Company.

1907 - Music of the famous song, The Teddy Bear's Picnic, composed by John Bratton.

1908 - J.K Farnell company makes the first British Teddy Bear.

1909 - A “teddy Bear” makes its first appearance in a British childrens story book.

By 1910 there were many teddy bear companies and many types of novelty teddy bears. Teddy Bear memorabilia was being produced. There were Roller Bears, Tumbling Bears, Teddy Bear china, Electric Eye Bears. It was also very fashionable for children to have their picture taken with their teddy bear.
1912 - First black teddy bears to be given as mourning gifts - after the sinking of Titanic.

1919 - First non-stop Atlantic flight by teddy bears when aviation pioneers Alcock and Brown take teddy bear mascots with them on their record breaking flight.

1920 - First Rupert Bear picture story, Little Lost Bear, appears in the Daily Express, a UK newspaper.

1921 - The German company Schuco patents the Yes/No teddy bear.

1924 - First colour animation film with a teddy bear theme appears when Walt Disney produces Alice and Three Bears.

1926 - First edition of Winnie The Pooh by author A.A. Milne is publised.

1930 - First teddy bears made by UK firm Merrythought with designs by Florence Atwood.

1933 - Jimmy Kennedy writes the lyrics to the Teddy Bears’ Picnic

1938 - H.M Queen Elizabeth (The Late Queen Mother) grants a Royal Warrant to British teddy bear makers Chad Valley.

1944 - Smokey Bear is adopted as the mascot of the United States Forestry Commissions Fire Prevention Campaign.

1948 - Biffo The Bear appears for the first time in the Beano comic.

1953 - Steiff celebrates the Golden Jubilee with a new style bear "Jackie Baby".

1954 - The first fully machine washable “teddy bear” designed by Wendy Boston appears.

1958 - Publication of the first Paddington Bear story - A Bear Called Paddington.

1959 - Walt Disney acquire the rights to Winnie the Pooh.

1969 - Peter Bull, credited with re-awaking interest in Teddy Bears, publishes “Bear With Me“

1969 - Jim Ownby launches the charity “Good Bears of the World”

1975 - Walt Disney's first animated film of Winnie the Pooh is released.

1979 - The Marquis of Bath organises the Great Teddy Bear Rally at Longleat.

1985 - The London auction house Christie, holds the first Teddy Bear only auction.

1989 - First Teddy Bear Festival held in London.

1989 - A 1926 tipped mohair Steiff bear was sold for UK £55,000 to American Paul Vollp.

1990 - A Hermann Teddy Bear Original 75th Anniversary Limited Edition released.

1990 - Merrythought Diamond Jubilee Limited Edition released.

1994 - Teddy Girl, a 1904 cinnamon coloured mohair Steiff, is sold in auction for GB£110,000 to a man from Japan.

1996 - Teddy Edward, the world's most travelled bear is sold at GB£34,500.

1998 - Teddy bear “Guinness” enters The Guinness Book of Records as the world's smallest teddy bear - 8.5mm or 3/10ths of an inch  tall, made by Lynn Lumb of Halifax, England.

2002 -This year marked the 100th birthday of the teddy bear

2006 - Sadly on November 27th Britain’s Last Toy Manufacturer Ceases Production this day marked the closure of Merrythought bear Factory, Ironbridge, Shropshire, UK.

2007 - Merrythought re-opens in Ironbridge on the same site, on  a much smaller scale concentrating on manufacturing collector bears.

Collecting and caring for Teddy Bears

Collecting Bears Today teddy bears of all kinds are freely available everywhere, costing from a few pounds, to hundreds of pounds for an exquisite mohair collector bear.

My advice to anyone wishing to start their own teddy bear hug is buy a teddy bear collectors book available from most good bookstores, and also purchase the monthly teddybear magazines available at your local newsagents.

Be very careful when buying old bears from fetes auctions etc, they can sometimes contain hidden pests.

The main thing to remember is a teddybear is there to love and care for, with experience i find any new bear wishing to join my hug shouts out "take me home" when i look into his eyes.
Enjoy your new found hobby by just following your heart.

Cleaning your new Friend

You will need couple of pieces of terry towelling (9-12 inch squares) and slightly warm water. Use white cloth preferably as the dye can run from coloured cloths, especially when new.

Despite what you may have heard, it is probably better NOT to use soap suds or foam unless it is very necessary -the reason being that they can leave a slightly sticky surface residue that can attract more dirt.

If you do have to use suds, use a very gentle soap (soap flakes are good) and wash gently with the suds without wetting the backing cloth too much. Then proceed as detailed below.

Wet the cloths and hand wring them out. Wipe down the teddy in the direction of the nap with about as much force as you would exert on a young child’s skin, being careful not to get the backing too wet.

Keep moving the cloth to a new area. Use a second cloth to go over the teddy again. You may be very surprised at how much dirt and grime comes off.

Let the bear dry overnight and whatever you do - don't put the bear in the sun or use a hair dryer to dry your teddy quickly.

Lastly, give your teddy a good brush.

Old Teddy Bears may harbour Bugs

If you have just adopted an old teddy bear it may be wise to take some precautions before putting it into your existing bear hug.

Only if you are completely certain of the bear’s previous home then you will probably be all right, if not it might pay to be careful and put the bear into isolation for a while.

Old fillings and fur can harbour pests and diseases so make sure that you do your best to destroy these before letting it near your bear hug or your children!

This is the method i have used in the past and although it sounds unkind it is sometimes very necessary to fumigate the new old bear.

First find two plastic bags, big enough to take your bear and close easily.

Wear gloves and a protective face mask. It is safer to do this outdoors.

Liberally coat the inside of one bag with a “fly and bug” killer spray. Leave to dry - completely. When dry, put your teddy inside the bag and seal tightly. Leave to one side for about 14 days.

After 14 days to make completely sure of killing every kind of pest, put your bag with the teddy INSIDE the second plastic bag and seal that one too. Place the sealed bear inside your freezer for about 14 days.

14 days later release teddy from the bags and dispose of the bags carefully.

Allow teddy to thaw in a warm dry airy place, don’t rush this bit - it may take quite a while to completely dry teddy inside as well as out.

When dry, give your HEALTHY teddy a good brush.

The above is information is given to the best of my knowledge.


I DO NOT accept any responsibility for damage that may be caused to your bear or other soft toys by following the information contained here on this page. You undertake these steps at your own risk. If you are uncertain about the outcome, and your bear is of value it may be wise to insure it and to seek a professional bear restorer for help.