The first Teddy Bears were made simultaneously in the United States and Germany around the beginning of the 20th century. Teddy bears are now a worldwide phenomenon and these days vary in size, shape, colour and material from those first manufactured. They are among the most popular gifts given to babies and children and are often given to adults to signify love, sympathy or congratulations.
The name teddy bear comes from former United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who was commonly known as "Teddy". The name originated from an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, to which Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already killed an animal. Some of Roosevelt's attendants, cornered and tied an American black bear to a willow tree after a long chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he should shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery. This became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902.
Morris Michtom saw the drawing of Roosevelt and was inspired to create a teddy bear. He created a tiny soft bear cub and put it in the shop window with a sign "Teddy's bear," after sending a bear to Roosevelt and receiving permission to use his name. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.
Early teddy bears were made to look like real bears, with extended snouts and beady eyes. Modern teddy bears tend to have larger eyes and foreheads, smaller noses and babylike features that enhance the toy's cuteness. Teddy bears are also manufactured to represent different species of bear, such as polar bears and grizzly bears, as well as pandas.
While early teddy bears were covered in tawny mohair fur, modern teddy bears are manufactured in a wide varity of commercially available fabrics, most commonly synthetic, fur, but also velour, denim, cotton, satin and canvas.
Some popular mass-marketed teddy bears made today include Rupert, Sooty, Paddington, and Pudsey Bear. Books have also been written with the teddy bear featured as their main character. These include Winnie-the-Pooh, Corduroy, Teddy Tells Time.
Here is a timeline of interesting facts
- Bears first appeared on the literary scene in the fairy tale 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' written by Robert Southey in 1834.
- In November 1902 Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn shopkeeper, sells the world's first 'Teddy's Bear' in his shop.
- In 1907 the song, The Teddy Bear's Picnic, was written by American composer J.K. Bratton. The song was originally called The Teddy Bear Two Step and the lyrics we know and love today were not actually added until 1932 by prolific British songwriter Jimmy Kennedy.
- In 1909, the first animated teddy cartoon "Little Johnny and the Teddy Bears" appeared in USA.
- In 1912 the German soft toy company run by Steiff created a black bear to give as mourning gifts for all those who lost loved ones on the Titanic.
- In 1920, the first Rupert Bear picture story, Little Lost Bear, written and illustrated by Mary Tourtel, was published in the Daily Express in the UK.
- In 1924 Walt Disney produced the first colour animation film with a teddy bear theme Alice and the Three Bears.
- Arguably the most famous and loved bears of all times, Winnie-the-Pooh made its appearance when the first edition of Winnie-the-Pooh was published A.A. Milne in 1926.
- In 1944 Smokey Bear was adopted as the mascot of the United States Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.
- Sooty, the teddy bear glove puppet and magician, made its debut on British television in 1952. Sooty became hugely popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand.
- In 1954 Wendy Boston, a Welsh toy maker, produced the first truly washable soft toy bear.
- In 1958 the first Paddington Bear story, A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond was published.
- The first animated film on Winnie-the-Pooh was produced by Walt Disney in 1975.
- The auction house Christie's of London held the first ever teddy bear-only auction in 1985.
- In 1988, Gyles and Michele Brandreth set up The Teddy Bear Museum in William Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-upon-Avon.
- In 1989, the first British Teddy Bear Festival was held in London.