Antique Teddy Bears
The teddy bear as we know it, standing or sitting upright with or without jointed limbs but more doll-like, traces its origins to 1902 where it was simultaneously (but independently) developed in both the US and Germany. Prior to 1902, toy bears were more realistic in their appearance.
In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt went to Mississippi to help settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana. While there, he was invited to go bear hunting. On the fifth day, Roosevelt still hadn’t even seen a bear to shoot. The journalists were gleefully reporting on this lack of success. A group of Roosevelt's attendants 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.
Drawing the Line, Clifford Berryman
November 16, 1902
The Washington Post
|Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman created a cartoon depicting the incident that ran in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It took the country by storm. Morris Michtom and his wife Rose ran a candy store in Brooklyn. In the evenings, Rose sewed toys that would be sold in the store. Upon seeing the cartoon, Morris had Rose create a new toy of a stuffed bear cub. The toy was put in the shop window with a sign that read “Teddy’s bear”. It sold immediately. Within a short period of time, the Michtoms closed the store and founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. to focus on teddy bear production.
Meanwhile, in Germany, in late October 1902, Richard Steiff conceived of a toy bear after seeing bears in a visiting American circus. His aunt, the founder of the Steiff toy company, liked the idea and created a mohair prototype from Richard’s designs. The bear, “Friend Petz”, was exhibited by Steiff at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903. A NY company purchased 3,000 of the bears.
Numerous other companies jumped into the design and production of teddy bears. Novelty bears were especially popular during President Roosevelt’s second term. Early companies producing teddy bears included Harwin & Co., Chad Valley, Dean, William J. Terry and Chiltern in England; Knickerbocker, Bruin, Aetna, and Gund in the United States; Joy Toys in Australia; and in Germany, Bing, Schuco, and Hermann joined Steiff.
Early teddy bears were most often made out of wool mohair. The oldest ones were hard-stuffed with excelsior (wood wool) or if lightweight, fibers from the kapok tree. These bears had paws made from felt or cotton. The earliest most likely had boot-button eyes while glass eyes became common in the 1920s. Silk plush bears were introduced around 1930, but cotton plush wasn't used until after World War II and synthetics didn’t appear until the 1950s.
Benjamin Michton, son of Ideal's founder, gave an original 1903 bear to Roosevelt's grandson Kermit, his wife and their children, in late 1963. They immediately donated it to the Smithsonian. Today, this bear is on display as part of The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibit.
Search for teddy bears on Dig Antiques.
- Teddy Bear, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.
- The Teddy Baron, Why are they called Teddy Bears?.
- History Spaces, A Short History of the Teddy Bear, January 12, 2012.
- Teddy Bear, Wikipedia.
- Morris Michtom, Wikipedia.
- Antique and Vintage Teddy Bears, Collectors Weekly.
- Rose and Morris Michtom and the Invention of the Teddy Bear, Jewish Virtual Library.
It Just Spoke to Me
Written by Guest Columnist: Lyn Andeen
We all know the many proper criteria for selecting a good antique to add to our collection.
I guess some would say that condition, rarity, and age are the most important. There is that one intangible, totally subjective one that many times trumps all others...." It just spoke to me".
Anyone who has ever bought a child's toy, doll, or teddy bear knows all too well this indescribable feeling. Perhaps the item invokes childhood memories or fulfills a longtime past desire.
Sometimes that one 50's cardboard Christmas house that reminds us of our youth snowballs into a whole collection.
I have even had the color of an item speak to me, and not just an antique. "Oh if only that brand new robin’s egg blue metal trash can was a pantry box or a cupboard."
We are a truly unique bunch! We can take pleasure in the patina, wear, color, form, history, and most importantly, the feeling that an inanimate object can conjure.
About Lyn Andeen
Lyn Andeen has been an avid collector and dealer for the past 28 years. She has been in group shops, setup at countless antique shows and has a true artistic eye. Lyn's passion is for quality 18th through early 20th century Americana, decorative arts, Shaker and folk art. You can find Lyn online through Andeen Antiques.
It's funny how sometimes connections are made with history. As we were researching the origin of the teddy bear, we were drawn to information on Teddy Roosevelt that had local connections. For instance, when President McKinley died in Buffalo NY, then Vice-President Roosevelt was visiting the Adirondacks. He took the train from North Creek, NY to Buffalo to be sworn in as President. That North Creek train station is not all that far from where we are in Brant Lake. We also found out that Teddy Roosevelt used to visit Brant Lake to fish. These types of connections are how we end up relating to people and antiques - they seem to make history come alive.
We have been enjoying the fall foliage here in the Adirondacks, but it means that our time on the east coast is almost over. We have one more antique show and then we'll be heading west. We hope you can stop in and see us on October 4-5, at the Okemo Antiques Show in Ludlow, VT. This is one of five antique shows in Vermont that weekend.
Tom & Sheila Baker
We Dig It...do you? Dig Antiques - Real stuff without the fluff.
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