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A History Of The Teddy Bear
Teddy Bears’ Picnic - Interesting Facts

Teddy Bear History > Teddy Bears Picnic Facts...

A teddy bears' picnic is a party for young children which involves a meal where children are invited to bring their teddy bears. Teddy bears' picnics are often held as a birthday party or by schools, churches or other organised children's groups.

The picnic concept probably originates with an instrumental version of the 1907 music called Teddy Bears' Picnic, which written by the American composer John Walter Bratton.

The song regained prominence in 1932 when Irish lyricist Jimmy Kennedy added the words we know today. It was recorded by the then popular Henry Hall and his BBC Dance Orchestra and, it is reputed, to have sold over a million copies.

"Teddy Bear’s Picnic" resurfaced in the late 1940s and early 1950s when it was used as the theme song for the Big Jon and Sparkie radio program, a children's show presented in the UK on weekday and Saturday mornings. It has since appeared on many children's recordings.

It has even been computerised. It was the theme song of the Commodore 64 game "The Hunchback", by Ocean and in November 2005, ad agency McCann Erickson, produced a commercial for Microsoft's Xbox game console featuring the Henry Hall version as the main soundtrack.

An American President, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States who was in office from September 14 1901 to March 3 1909, used the music as his re-election campain theme.

In France in the year 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium.

Even here in Wales, a Teddy Bears’ Picnic event was held in 2002 in the beautiful UK seaside town of Llandudno to celebrate centenary of The Great Orme Tramway. This coincided with the 100th centenary of the creation of the teddy bear itself. CymruTed was honoured to be commissioned to create a unique “Centenary Bear” to celebrate this fact.

In the United States, the 4th of July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic and the modern Bar’b’que and tailgating is probably a modern version of the picnic.

In Italy the favourite picnic day is 'Angel's Monday' also known as Pasquetta ('little easter') which is the day after Easter.

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The modern definition of a picnic can be simply stated as: a relaxing, informal outing at which an ad-hoc meal is eaten, ideally outdoors.

The first written use of the word however can be traced to a 16th century French text, describing a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The word picnic could be based on the verb piquer which means 'pick' or 'peck' (like a chicken) with the rhyming nique meaning "thing of little importance" thus piquer nique.

The word picnic probably entered the English language however from the German word Picknick. The 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue Françoise de Ménage, which mentions 'piquenique' as being of ‘recent’ origin, marks the first appearance of the word in print. 

The word picnic first appeared in English written texts in the mid-1700s, and so, may have entered the English language from this French word.

John Walter Bratton (usually called John W Bratton) 
John Bratton wrote 250 songs in his 50 year career, mostly for Broadway musicals in the 1890's and the early 1900's. Remarkably, Teddy Bears Picnic is his only really well known composition.

Jimmy Kennedy was born in Omagh, Northern Ireland on July 20, 1902 but grew up in Portstewart. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He taught for a while in England before embarking on a career in as a songwriter by joining the staff of Bert Feldman, a Music Publisher based in Denmark Street in London's Tin Pan Alley.

Jimmy Kennedy had more hits in the United States than any other British songwriter until John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles arrived on the scene.

In a career spanning more than fifty years, Kennedy wrote some 2000 songs of which over 200 became worldwide hits and about 50 are all-time popular classics.

His first success came in 1931 with the Barmaids Song sung by Gracie Fields. Red Sails in the Sunset was inspired by a beautiful summer evening in Portstewart in 1935 and South of the Border was inspired by a picture postcard he received from Tijuana in Mexico.

While serving in the British Army, where he rose to the rank of Captain, he wrote the wartime hit, We're Gonna Hang Out Our Washing On The Siegfried Line.

His hits include The Isle of Capri, My Prayer, The Teddy Bears' Picnic (music by John Walter Bratton), Love is Like a Violin, Hokey Cokey and Roll Along Covered Wagon.

Kennedy's songs were recorded by such famous artists as Louis Armstrong, Petula Clark, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Fats Domino, Vera Lynn, Dean Martin, Glen Miller, The Platters, Elvis Presley and Paul Robeson.

He won two "Ivor Novello Awards" for his contribution to music and received an honorary degree from the New University of Ulster. In 1997 he was posthumously inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

Jimmy Kennedy died in Cheltenham, England on April 6, 1984 and is buried in Taunton, Somerset in the UK. Jimmy Kennedy’s son, Jimmy Kennedy Jr continues to promote his fathers life and work.

Peter Bull The wave of popularity which the teddy bear enjoys today owes much to the actor Peter Bull, a larger than life character who toured the United States, holding Teddy Bear picnics.

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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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