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Teddy Bear History
The Ongoing Story

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Teddy Bear History > The Ongoing Story...


Teddy Bear mania had swept the world within a few years ...

President Roosevelt adopted the bear cub as his mascot for a successful re-election campaign in 1904. Because of the bear’s popularity, Roosevelt and the Republican Party adopted it as their symbol in the election and Michtom bears were placed on display at every public White House function.

President William Taft had a rival toy “Billy Possum” made which was intended to rival the amazing popularity of Teddy’s Bear, Steiff redesigned their bears to create a more appealing face which was to influence all other Teddy Bears for the next fifty years.

While American firms mainly supplied their home market, the German firms at first Steiff, and later competitors such as Bing, Hermann and Shuco, exported bears across Europe. Only after the First World War did the Teddy Bear industries of other countries start to make a mark.

Although some Teddy Bear toys had been made in Britain from around 1910, large-scale bear manufacture only began around 1915. Among the first firms involved were J.K. Farnell, The Deans Rag Book Company and H.G. Stone & Co (who sold under the tradename 'Chiltern Toys')

English bears tended to be softer in look and feel than their German cousins, and were a major influence throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Farnell bears are generally acknowledged to be the English equivalent of Steiff, but many other companies, including Deans, Chiltern, Chad Valley Co. and Merrythought (founded in 1930) made beautiful Teddies.

The United States was relatively untouched by the war and its teddy bear industry continued to grow.

The Knickerbocker Toy Company got its start in 1920 and continues to make teddy bears today. Nine years later in 1929 the US was hit by the Depression and most teddy bear companies were hurt by the downturn in the market. After 1929 and into the 1930’s, many American companies either found cheaper ways to produce bears or they shut down.

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World War Two (1939-1945) however, brought a halt to bear production across Europe. When things gradually returned to normal, many new Teddy designs appeared alongside the traditional jointed bears.

One of the most influential of these new bears was designed by Wendy Boston who saw the rapid spread of washing machines and created an unjointed, fully washable bear, a design which was soon copied by all the other manufacturers. The Wendy Boston design influenced most of the bears made throughout the 1960s and 1970s and its shape even affected the look of jointed bears.

From the mid 1970s onward, more and more adults began collecting Teddy Bears.  At first, they were happy with the modern designs, but as the history of the Teddy Bear became known, some people began to look for older bears with traditional designs. As manufacturers realised the interest in old bears, they began to aim some of their new products at collectors, rather than children. Independent bear artists such as Iris and Ches Chesney began producing beautiful and affordable teddy bears to old designs.

This continues to this day with many manufacturers designing special “limited edition” bears for each season and with the centenary of the teddy bear in 2002/2003, many producers have brought out special designs to mark the occasion.

Of great interest in recent years however is the amazing rise of the independent Bear Artists who produce teddies, often as a hobby. Talented people from all walks of life such as Janet Changfoot of South Africa are now producing truly wonderful creations and a good number of these artists have become internationally recognised.

So what next for the teddy bear? In 1999, in just the United States, it is reported that collectors purchased $441 million worth of teddy bears so our love affair with the teddy bear shows no signs of abating. As we begin our journey through the twenty first century, could it be that we need the teddy bear's gift of love, tenderness, acceptance and reassurance more than ever.

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You might also be interested in...
Where, and how, the Teddy Bear was born
What happened to the Teddy Bear next
Some people who had a major influence on the design of the Teddy Bear
For the fact hounds... A Teddy Bear Timeline
The Lyrics (and music) to the famous song - Teddy Bears’ Picnic
Some interesting facts about picnics, the music, Jimmy Kennedy, John W Bratton...
Teddy Love ... our ongoing love affair with the Teddy Bear

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