The teddy bear is a soft toy in the form of a bear. Developed apparently simultaneously by toymakers Morris Michtom in the US and Richard Steiff in Germany in the early years of the 20th century, and named after President Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr., the teddy bear became an iconic children's toy, celebrated in story, song and film. Since the creation of the first teddy bears which sought to imitate the form of real bear cubs, "teddies" have greatly varied in form, style and material. They have become collector's items, with older and rarer "teddies" appearing at public auctions. Teddy bears are among the most popular gifts for children and are often given to adults to signify love, congratulations or sympathy.
The name Teddy Bear comes from former United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who was commonly known as "Teddy" (though he loathed being referred to as such). The name originated from an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, to which Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already killed an animal. A suite of Roosevelt's attendants, led by Holt Collier, cornered, clubbed, and tied an American Black Bear to a willow tree after a long exhausting chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he should shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. While the initial cartoon of an adult black bear lassoed by a handler and a disgusted Roosevelt had symbolic overtones, later issues of that and other Berryman cartoons made the bear smaller and cuter.
Morris Michtom saw the drawing of Roosevelt and was inspired to create a new toy. He created a little stuffed bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign that read "Teddy's bear," after sending a bear to Roosevelt and receiving permission to use his name. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.
At the same time in Germany, the Steiff firm, unaware of Michtom's bear, produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff's designs. Steiff exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903, where it was seen by Hermann Berg, a buyer for George Borgfeldt & Company in New York. He ordered 3000 to be sent to the United States. Although Steiff's records show that the bears were produced, they are not recorded as arriving in the U.S., and no example of the type, "55 PB", has ever been seen, leading to the story that the bears were shipwrecked. However, the story is disputed - Gunther Pfieffer notes that it was only recorded in 1953 and says it is more likely that the 55 PB was not sufficiently durable to survive until the present day. Although Steiff and Michtom were both making teddy bears at around the same time, neither would have known of the other's creation due to poor transatlantic communication.
By 1906 manufacturers other than Michtom and Steiff had joined in and the craze for "Roosevelt Bears" was such that ladies carried them everywhere, children were photographed with them, and Roosevelt used one as a mascot in his bid for re-election.
North American educator Seymour Eaton wrote the children's book series The Roosevelt Bears, while composer John Walter Bratton wrote an instrumental "The Teddy Bears' Picnic", a "characteristic two-step", in 1907, which later had words written to it by lyricist Jimmy Kennedy in 1932.
Early teddy bears were made to look like real bears, with extended snouts and beady eyes. Modern teddy bears tend to have larger eyes and foreheads and smaller noses, babylike features that enhance the toy's cuteness. Teddy bears are also manufactured to represent different species of bear, such as polar bears and grizzly bears, as well as pandas.
While early teddy bears were covered in tawny mohair fur, modern teddy bears are manufactured in a wide variety of commercially available fabrics, most commonly synthetic fur, but also velour, denim, cotton, satin, and canvas.
Commercially made, mass-produced teddy bears are predominantly made as toys for children. These bears have safety joints for attaching arms, legs, and heads. They must have securely fastened eyes that do not pose a choking hazard for small children. These "plush" bears must meet a rigid standard of construction in order to be marketed to children in the United States and in the European Union.
There are also companies, like Steiff, that sell handmade collectible bears that can be purchased in stores or over the Internet. The majority of teddy bears are manufactured in countries such as China and Indonesia. A few small, single-person producers in the United States make unique, non-mass-produced teddy bears. In the United Kingdom one small, traditional teddy bear company remains, Merrythought, which was established in 1930. Mohair, the fur shorn or combed from a breed of long haired goats, is woven into cloth, dyed and trimmed. Alpaca teddy bears are made from the pelt of an alpaca because the fiber is too soft to weave. In addition to mohair and alpaca, there is a huge selection of "plush" or synthetic fur made for the teddy bear market. Both these types of fur are commercially produced.
Teddy bears are a favourite form of soft toy for amateur toy makers, with many patterns commercially produced or available online. Many "teddies" are home-made as gifts or for charity, while "teddy bear artists" often create "teddies" for retail, decorating them individually with commercial and recycled ornaments such as sequins, beads and ribbons . Sewn teddy bears are made from a wide range of materials including felt, cotton and velour. While many are stitched, others are made from yarn, either knitted or crocheted. Teddy bears are also made of plywood and a range of other craft materials.
Michtom's jointed mohair “Teddy’s bear” was very popular when first designed and remains so with collectors today. Fake bears look suspiciously new and unhandled: their noses are unworn, and their seams may be thick and uneven. All Ideal bears have jointed hips, necks, and shoulders. Early examples have a characteristic “American football” shape and are mostly made of short, gold or beige mohair plush with matching felt paws, and distinctive, sharply pointed foot pads. They have shoe-button or glass eyes, and the fur around the muzzle may be shorn. Later bears were made in a large variety of colours and types - for example, pandas - and had longer fur.
Other collectible bears include ones by the Knickerbocker Toy Co. (active 1924-5) in New York, which are clearly marked with a label in the front seam. Similar to many early American bears, Knickerbocker bears usually have long bodies, small feet, and short, straight arms and legs. Their later bears can be recognized by their large inverted ears and big noses. Other collectible bears include Gund Manufacturing Co. (est. 1898), now in New York, and “Hershey’s bears”, which were designed to promote The Hershey Company’s chocolate bars.
Retail sales of stuffed plush animals including teddy bears was $1.3 billion in 2006. The most commonly sold brands include Gund and Ty Inc. Brands associated with teddy bears that enjoyed strong popularity in the 1980s and 1990s are Teddy Ruxpin and Care Bears.
Some popular mass-marketed teddy bears made today include Rupert, Sooty, Paddington, and Pudsey Bear. Books have also been written with the teddy bear featured as their main character. These include Winnie-the-Pooh, Corduroy, Teddy Tells Time, and Teddy Dressing.
Teddy bear museums
The world's first teddy bear museum was set up in Petersfield, Hampshire, England, in 1984. In 1990, a similar foundation was set up in Naples, Florida, United States. These were closed in 2006 and 2005 respectively, and the bears were sold in auctions, but there are today many teddy bear museums around the world.
Teddy bear cops
Because police, fire and emergency officials found that giving a teddy bear to a child during a crisis stabilized and calmed them, NAPLC created the Teddy Bear Cops program to distribute teddy bears to police, fire, and emergency officials throughout the United States, for their use in providing teddy bears to children in emergencies.
Teddy bear festivals
Teddy bear festivals have now become popular around the world, taking place in Australia, America, Canada, Great Britain, Japan and Germany.
Brunus edwardii joke
In April 1972, issue 90 of The Veterinary Record included a paper on the diseases of Brunus edwardii: a description of lost limbs and thinning hair, accompanied by sketches of a teddy bear resembling Winnie the Pooh.
- David Cannadine, A point of view - The Grownups with teddy bears, 1 February 2013, (accessed 2013-02-01)
- "A STEIFF HARLEQUIN TEDDY BEAR, jointed, half red and half blue mohair, one blue and black and one brown and black glass eye, black stitching, yellow felt pads and FF button, circa 1925 --13½in. (34cm.) high (small bald spot below right ear, some fading mainly to the blue, blue eye cracked, patch to right pad and some general wear) Christie's". Retrieved 2010-10-12. "Estimate £50,000 - £80,000"
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- "Brunus edwardii (1972)". Retrieved 27 March 2010.
- Blackmore, DK; DG Owen and CM Young (1972). "Some observations on the diseases of Brunus edwardii (Species nova)". Veterinary Record 90 (14): 382–385. doi:10.1136/vr.90.14.382. Retrieved 27 March 2010.
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