Children around the world have received and cherished their beloved teddy bears throughout the years. These teddy bears could range from the expensive and classic Steiff bears to the contemporary Boyds bears or iconic storybook bears such as Paddington Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh or Smokey the Bear. Sometimes these tattered teddy bears become family heirlooms passed down to future generations. So, in honor of Teddy Bear Day, this post will discuss the history of the Teddy Bear.
The teddy bear is named for the 26th President of the United States, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt. Roosevelt had become known for his love of the natural wonders and wildlife of the United States. Legend has it that on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902 Roosevelt found a wounded small bear and he ordered that the bear should be spared from being killed. The story was depicted in a political cartoon, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi” by Clifford Berryman, which appeared on November 16, 1902 in the Washington Post.
Soon after the cartoon was published, Morris Michtom was inspired by the illustration and his wife, Rose, created a stuffed toy version of “Teddy’s bear” that he put for sale in the window of his candy store in Brooklyn, New York. The little teddy bear received instant notice and Michtom started to mass–produce the stuffed toys and eventually he founded the Ideal Toy Co.
Meanwhile at the same time, the Steiff Company had created their own bear that they showcased at the 1903 Toy Show in Germany. Margarete Steiff had created a mohair fabric bear with button eyes, an embroidered nose and a body that was stuffed with wood shavings and had full articulated head, arms and legs. An order was placed by a buyer for the George Borgfeldt & Company in New York which proved to be an instant success.
Within a few years other manufacturers began to produce their own versions of the teddy bear. The early models of teddy bears were made to resemble real bears with small eyes and longer noses. Gradually, the modern teddy bears were made with smaller noses and larger more “friendly” eyes in a variety of fabrics such as synthetic furs, cottons, satins, silks, denim and canvas. Also different types of bears were made such as polar bears and pandas. (Speaking of pandas, I still have an old stuffed wind-up musical panda bear that I received from my godparents when I was a child which bring back wonderful memories of falling asleep to the soothing sound of Brahms Lullaby)
Interesting Teddy Bear Facts
- In 1834, the first bear in literary form, it was the fairytale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” which was written by Robert Southey.
- In 1908, the English J.K. Farnell Company, which originally produced tea cosies and pincushions, started to manufacture the first British teddy bears.
- With the tragic sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage in 1912 the Steiff Company created a black stuffed bear that was given as a mourning gift to those that lost their loved ones.
- In 1920, the first Rupert Bear story of the Little Lost Bear, which was written and illustrated by Mary Tourtel, appeared in the UK newspaper, the Daily Express.
- In 1926, the first A.A. Milne book of the Winnie-the-Pooh series was published and the character has remained one of the most famous and loved bears of all times. In 1959, Disney acquired the rights to the Winnie the Pooh stories and later, in 1975, they released their first animated film based on the character. (For more information about A.A. Milne, please click on the link)
- In 1944, Smokey the Bear was first used as the mascot of the U.S. Forest Fire Prevention campaign.
- In 1958, the first Michael Bond book of the Paddington Bear series was published, the character proved to be another popular bear.
Speaking of bears, as previously mentioned in other posts on this website, I have a large collection of Boyds Bears stuffed animals and figurines. For more information about this collection, please click on the following links: Displaying a Boyds Bear Collection Part One & Two. Also be sure to check out the additional post, Displaying a Boyds Bear Village.