teddy bear history
History

Teddy Bear History: Who Invented It and Where Did It Come From?

How the Teddy Bear Came About

The invention of the teddy bear, as it is fondly called, comes in the form of a soft, gentle and cuddly creature with lovely ribbons (sometimes) in either a sitting or standing position. It all started with Morris Michtom, a toy maker in USA after inventing it honor of the former US president, Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt during the early 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt was popularly addressed as “Teddy” due to his bear hunting adventures which earned him this name (though he was never fond of it). So here’s a brief teddy bear history … 

Teddy Bear History

It all began in November 14, 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt responded to an invitation by Andrew Longino, then Governor of Mississippi, to go on a bear hunting trip. Unfortunately for Roosevelt, he failed to locate a single bear that day while the other hunters had already made their kill. Roosevelt’s assistants, led by Holt Collier, cornered an American black bear, clubbed its skull, and tied it to a tree. Collier was a born slave and formerly a Confederate cavalryman. After an exhausting chase, Collier suggested that Roosevelt shoot the bear.

Teddy Bear History

Considering it unsportsmanlike to shoot an animal that was being tied up, Roosevelt ordered that the bear be put out of its misery. Subsequently, this was made into a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman on November 16, 1902 for The Washington Post. News of the President’s refusal to shoot a bear spread rapidly throughout the country. But why? This was because President Roosevelt was not just any man, he was a passionate game hunter!

Teddy Bear History

Morris Michtom

As a result of his sympathy for the creature, many caricature representations soon popped up in newspapers and magazines, mostly with a political mocking gesture to the feelings of the President for the bear. Berryman’s cartoon, which initially depicted an old bear, was replaced by another publication with a smaller and cuter representation of the situation. A glimpse of this popular cartoon caught the eye of Morris Michtom, a candy shop owner from Brooklyn. Michtom and his wife, Rose, also made stuffed animals and decided to create a stuffed toy bear out of the cartoon. The stuffed bear was named “Teddy’s Bear”. Sensing a business opportunity, Michtom eventually went on to gain the President’s permission to use his name. And then ventured into mass production of these stuffed bears. They became so popular that he soon founded a toy company called Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. All in all, it was this fateful hunting trip in 1902 that spawned worldwide popularity of teddy bears, delighting both young and old for generations. 

Steiff: From Handicapped to Successful Entrepreneurship 

Besides Michtom’s invention in the United States, another firm in Germany called Steiff also impacted the teddy bear business. There has been some debate as to who was the earliest manufacturer of the teddy bear. The story of the Steiff firm begins with Richard and Margarete Steiff (Richard’s aunt). Margarete was a seamstress, whom in 1880, founded Margarete Steiff GmbH, a plush toy company based in Giengen, Germany. Margarete contracted Polio when she was just 18 months old and was handicapped. Despite her disability, Margarete was already an accomplished seamstress by the age of 17. Opening her felt store in 1877, some of her early works include a popular replica of an eleplant pincushion which she came across in a magazine. That design brought her to limelight as her felt store became more popular among locals, which eventually paved the way for founding Steiff. She didn’t stop at the elephant design alone as her company also featured other animals such as cats, horses, monkeys, camels, dogs and giraffes. Margarete’s brother, Fritz saw an opportunity to sell large quantities of these stuffed animals. Fritz brought with him samples to the market in Heidenheim and returned home with several orders. And as the variety of toys on offer increased each year, so did production and profits. Eventually they came up with a printed catalogue where people can order from which boosted profits even further.

Breakthrough

In March 1903, Margarete’s nephew, Richard Steiff exhibited their jointed bears at the Leipzig Toy Fair. Richard studied in England and was then a student at the School of Applied Arts in Stuttgart. Joining his aunt’s company in 1897, his creativity contributed to many of the animal sketches which became the foundation of Steiff’s early success.  Richard’s first bear, the famous 55 PB (or Steiff Bär 55PB, where 55 was the bear’s height in centimeters, P stood for Plüsch, a.k.a Plush, whereas B stood for beweglich, German for moveable limbs). So yes, the world’s first teddy bear did have jointed arms and legs that were moveable. 

Their teddy bears were seen by Hermann Berg, who was a buyer for the George Borgfeldt & Company in New York city. He placed an order for 3,000 bears to be shipped to the United States. In 1904, Steiff sold 12,000 teddy bears at the St. Louis World Fair and won the Gold Medal. From 1906 onwards, these teddy bears became a sensation in the United States. They were sold under the name “Teddy Bear”, named after President Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt.  And by 1907, the Steiff company was manufacturing as many as 974,000 bears.

We’re done with our teddy bear history lesson today – Who do you think invented the world’s first teddy bear? Was it Morris Michtom or was it Richard Steiff? We believe that neither Michtom nor Steiff would have known about each other’s creation as a result of poor transatlantic comunication, despite having made them around the same period. 

Put a Smile on Someone’s Face Today with an Adorable Teddy Bear

Some researchers give credence to the fact that there are physiological explanations to the nature of the female gender towards cute and soft creatures. Given that women are creatures with soft and feminine features, they’re usually drawn towards adorable and cuddly things. As a guy, can you imagine your girlfriend or wife beaming with joy when you stick out a cute teddy bear as a gift for her?

SHOP NOW to send your loved one a surprise today! 

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