A Brief History of the Teddy Bear

In 2002 the teddy bear celebrated its 100th birthday. The exact date of when the first Teddy Bear was made largely depends on whether you live in the United States or in Europe, although it should be said that both countries have serious claims of creating the first Teddy Bear.

The American teddy bear was created in 1902 named after the former United States President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was ‘Teddy’ and after an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi. Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino on a hunting trip along with several others. Roosevelt failed to make a kill so the hosts caught a bear and presented it to the President as a sitting target. The President refused to kill the bear himself but ordered that the bear be killed and this became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post in November 1902.

Later that month Brooklyn shopkeepers Morris and Rose Michtom saw the drawing and were inspired to create a new toy. They created a little stuffed bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign that read ‘Teddy’s bear’. America went bear mad overnight and the Mitchtom’s went on to make their fortune with Ideal Novelty and Toy Company which still exists today and President Roosevelt had found a highly effective political mascot.

The European teddy bear was created by Margarete Steiff, a disabled German seamstress with a soft toy factory in Giengen, Southern Germany. Margarete’s nephew, Richard Steiff, had studied art at school and he helped his aunt with the design and production of her toy business. Looking for a new idea for a stuffed toy, Richard went to the Stuttgart Zoo. Among the animals he saw there was a troup of performing bears, which gave him the idea of a bear which stood upright and was jointed, similar to way dolls were made. Richard sketched the bears and gave the drawings to his aunt and from these drawing Margarete designed a jointed bear.

The teddy bear first appeared at the Leipzig Toy Fair in 1903 and Richard Steiff was approached by a buyer, Hermann Berg from the New York toy company, Geo Borgfeldt & Co. Once Berg was shown the joined teddy bear he ordered several thousand that day. This was the beginning of the Steiff Teddy Bear we all know and love.

Between 1903 and the First World War Steiff sold literally millions of bears, with their trademark button in the left ear, to the United States, Germany and Britain, as the teddy bear overtook the diabolo as the latest toy craze. Many other manufacturers joined in the craze for the teddy bear. Ladies carried them everywhere, children were photographed with them and Roosevelt used one as a mascot in his bid for re-election.

The early teddy bears were made to look like real bears, with extended snouts and beady eyes. Nowadays bears tend to have larger eyes and foreheads with smaller noses, baby like features that make them more attractive. Teddy bears come in various styles and you can even dress them up in many different styles and articles of clothing. They are a popular gift for children and significant others.

Ellen Greenford is a business writer working for Elgate and their range of wholesale soft toys.
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