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The History of Teddy Bears

Everybody loves a teddy bear. Children and adults alike are delighted by these stuffed toys. They provide comfort and fun for us as children and are often kept throughout our lives, as adults they hold special memories and might remind us of someone who we loved very much in our life.

Young boy with his teddy bear
A Young Boy and his Teddy Bear

But where did these delightful toys come from?

They story of the teddy bear starts in 1902 when Theodore Roosevelt the president of the United States of America, went on a hunting trip as a well-deserved break whilst trying to sort out a dispute between two different states. The guide on the hunting trip went ahead and found a black bear, he decided he would tie the bear up and let the president shoot it. However, when the president arrived at the scene, he refused to shoot the bear, claiming it would be ‘unsportsmanlike’ to shoot at an animal had been captured.

News of the presidents actions was published in many newspapers, along with a cartoon depiction of the event which was drawn by Clifford K. Berryman. The American public fell in love with the story of compassion from their president. Rose Michtom made a small stuffed bear which her husband, Morris Michtom, put in the window of his Brooklyn sweet shop along with a sign that said, ‘Teddy’s Bear’ (Teddy was Theodore Roosevelt’s nickname). The bear sold quickly and demand for these bears was so high that Rose could hardly keep up with the manufacture of them. The bears made the couple so successful that by 1907 they had set up the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

Theodore Roosevelt Cartoon of Bear Hunting
Cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt by by Clifford K. Berryman

Around the same time as the Michtom’s made their first bear Richard Steiff began making designs for a bear that would be ‘loved rather than feared by children’, it took many attempts before he had produced a design that impressed his aunt, Margarete Steiff, who ran her own toy company. The bears proved popular and by 1906 they had sold 400,000 of them. Over time these bears also became known as teddy bears, but it is not known if the idea for the Steiff bear came from America or if it was a coincidence that they were developed in two continents at the same time. Steiff bears are now one of the most popular and collectable bears in the world.

In the United Kingdom it is thought that the first teddy bear manufacturer was J.K. Farnerll who started making bears in 1908. Before this, although the bears were popular, they were all imported from Germany. As time has gone on more and more bear manufacturers have gone into production, including the famous UK based Merrythought bears, which was established in 1930.

Merrythought bears
New and Old Merrythought Bears

Now we have a huge choice of stuffed animals, not just teddy bears, what is your favourite stuffed toy that you have played with?

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