One of the most traditional of all toys, stuffed bears are the favorite companions of many children around the world. The teddy bear, having come from humble beginnings, has grown into a multi-million worldwide hobby. November 2002 marked the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear.
Teddy bears were born almost simultaneously in Germany and the United States. One of the pioneers was Margarete Steiff in Germany, who as a child was stricken with polio and confined to a wheelchair. She loved children and liked having them visit her. She enjoyed sewing and made stuffed toys to entertain her little visitors. Margarete soon began getting requests for copies of her felt toy animals. As time went by she trained other women to help her and eventually set up a small factory. The company made wool-felt pincushion-type animals of many varieties.
By 1887 Margarete's toys were being sent all over the world. Her nephew, Richard, an artist who spent many hours sketching bears at the zoo, in 1902 created a large toy bear for his aunt out of mohair, with a moving head and limbs. The Steiff Company then started producing jointed stuffed bears during 1902-1903. These Steiff bears were first introduced at the 1903 Leipzig Fair, where an American buyer for a New York import house, looking for something soft and cuddly, saw them and ordered several thousand for shipment to the United States. Before long they had received another 3,000-piece order as well.
Meanwhile, in November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt was in Mississippi conducting meetings over a boundary dispute. He took a day to relax by engaging in one of his favorite activities, bear hunting. It had been an unsuccessful day, but his hunting party wanted to help him get his trophy, so they captured a bear cub and tied it to a tree. The President refused to shoot it, however, because he considered shooting a captured bear to be unsportsmanlike.
The following day, November 16, 1902, The Washington Post printed an article about the incident. Accompanying the story was a political cartoon by editorial cartoonist Clifford Berryman. He drew a picture of a bear cub with round eyes and large ears tied to a tree. Next to the cub stood Teddy Roosevelt, his gun before him with the butt resting on the ground and his back to the animal, gesturing his refusal to take the shot. Written across the lower part of the cartoon were the words "Drawing the Line in Mississippi."
The cartoon drew a lot of attention. In Brooklyn, New York, a Russian immigrant named Morris Michtom displayed two toy bears in the window of his stationery and novelty shop. The plush stuffed excelsior bears with black button eyes were made by his wife, Rose, to look like the bear in the cartoon. Alongside the display she put the newspaper clipping. The bears sold immediately. Recognizing the bears' popularity, Michtom requested and received permission from President Roosevelt to call them "Teddy's Bears." The little stuffed bears were a huge success.
As demand for the stuffed toy bears increased, Michtom's business was taken over by the Butler Brothers, a U.S. toy wholesaler. In 1903 they formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company and in 1938 changed the name to the Ideal Toy Co. Since stuffed "Teddy" bears had become such big sellers in the U.S., the Steiff Company also supplied many of them. Consequently, in 1907, Steiff started calling the bears they made Teddy bears.
The height of the Teddy bear craze coincided with Roosevelt's second term in office, from 1905-1909. This is why many people consider Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, to be truly the father of the Teddy bear.
Did You Know…?
The Stuffington Bear Factory in Phoenix, AZ is one of the few remaining stuffed teddy bear factories in the U.S. Take their factory tour, and you can even stuff your own teddy bear or southwestern animal. For info, go to www.stuffington.com.
This silly old bear and his friends are perhaps the most famous stuffed animals of all time. British author A.A. Milne wrote Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner for his son, Christopher Robin Milne, born in 1920. The real Christopher Robin had a stuffed bear, and later he was given a stuffed tiger, pig, donkey, and kangaroo. Ernest Shepard, who illustrated the stories, visited the Milne family at their country home and based his drawings on Christopher Robin and his toys.
"Ted E. Bread" Honey-Cinnamon Bear
1 ½ cups flour
Step 1: Stir all-purpose flour, salt, cinnamon, butter and yeast in large bowl until mixed. Stir in water and honey until mixed. Stir in enough whole wheat flour, ½ cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Put dough on lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, using floured hands.
Step 2: Knead dough by folding and pushing with palms of hands, then make a quarter turn. Repeat these steps to knead 8 minutes. Put bowl over dough, and let rest 10 minutes.
Step 3: Grease a large cookie sheet. Shape a piece of dough into a 3-inch ball for the head. Shape 7 pieces of dough into 1-inch balls for paws, ears, and nose. Shape rest of dough into a ball for the body, and put it on center of cookie sheet.
Step 4: Attach head and paws to body by putting one side of each ball under body. Attach ears by placing one side of each ball under head. Make a little "well" in the head. Gently push dough ball for nose into "well." Press raisins in dough for eyes, tip of nose, and belly button. Cover and let rise in warm place 20-25 minutes or until almost double.
Step 5: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly. Brush a little more honey over warm bear. Makes 1 bear.
Teddy Bear: a stuffed toy or collectible bear, named after President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt.
Arctophily: the hobby of collecting teddy bears.
Bearabilia: bear memorabilia.
Hug: the collective noun for a group of bears. A hug can range from 2 or 3 bears to many thousands. (The largest collection I have heard of is over 15,000.)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (A collection of animated shorts based on the stories and characters by A. A. Milne.)
Pooh's Grand Adventure (Pooh and his friends attempt to rescue Christopher Robin who has gone away to school.)
A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond.
The Berenstain Bears series, by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
The Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward.
The House on Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne.
Little Bear series, by Else Minarik.
Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne.
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