A Timeline of Teddies
|1834||Robert Southey writes Goldilocks and the Three Bears.|
Margarete Steiff of Giengen, Germany, prints first Steiff catalogue, featuring Bears that roll along on metal wheels amongst other toys, including using scraps of felt to make Small Elephant Shaped Pincushions — these toys prove so popular, she registers the business as ‘Felt Toy Co.’ in 1893.
Steiff creates the first jointed bear codenamed Steiff Bär 55 PB, simultaneously, ‘Teddy’s Bear‘ is hand-made by the Michtom’s in New York in honor of President “Teddy” Roosevelt.
In 1903, 3,000 Steiff 55 PB teddy bears were sent by ship from Germany to the Borgfeldt company in New York, USA were lost at sea in a shipwreck.
Morris & Rose Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co., with financial help of the Butler Brothers, which remained a family company until the 1970s – still one of the biggest toy firms in the world. Ideal Novelty’s first Teddy Bear was a large golden mohair 19½ inches tall. Early Ideal bears were not labeled and can only be identified by their general shape and by certain design details such as triangular heads, pointed foot pads, black nose, long tapered arms, curved paws, beige felt pads, rounded thighs, rounded heels, pointed toes, short plush golden mohair and stuffing is excelsior. Shiny black shoebutton eyes were on early Ideal bears. The company changed its name to Ideal Toy Company in 1938.
|1904||President Roosevelt and the Republican Party adopted the Teddy Bear as their symbol in the election.|
At the Saint Louis World’s Fair in Missouri, the Steiffs sold 12,000 bears and received the Gold Medal.
Steiff introduced an improved bear, previously registered in March 1904 as Bar 35 PB. It was smaller in size with improved disc joints and light mohair plush. Later in June 1905, the 28 PB, a smaller version of the 35 PB was introduced with newly patented metal rod joints and then in 1905 the very successful 35 PAB was featured in the Steiff catalogue as ‘Barle’ with the Elephant button.
To prevent imitation, the term “Button in Ear” (‘Knopf im Ohr’) was also registered as an official trademark on 20 December 1904, and was given legal protection on 13 May 1905.
The name “Teddy Bear” may have been first coined by Seymore Eaton, an author and journalist who wrote a series of childrens’ books (first published serially in 1905 newspapers) on the adventures of The Roosevelt Bears, Teddy-B and Teddy-G. When Eaton died in 1916, he was, according to his New York Times obituary, “widely known as the creator of the ‘Teddy Bear’ whose adventures were first celebrated in verse in The New York Times.”
Wilhelm Strunz Felt Toy Co., of Allersberg and Nuremberg, Germany, made mohair bears in direct competition to Steiff. One of the first teddy bears Strunz copied was Steiff’s rod jointed Bar 28 PB. They had a legal dispute about the Button-In-Ear trademark and on October 28, 1908, Strunz agreed to withdraw the button and used a paper tag in the left ear secured with a staple. From 1910 on, the bears were marked with the word “Prasident” in reference to Teddy Roosevelt.
The heyday of teddy bears
During Roosevelt’s second term, 1907 Laughing Roosevelt Bear, along with regular bears, manufacturers produced novelty models, like the ‘1907 Laughing Roosevelt Bear’ by the Columbia Teddy Bear Company, which featured the president’s large teeth.
In May 1906, the name of ‘Teddy’s Bear’ first appearing as a trading term in the USA Toy Trade Journal “Playthings“.
|October 1906||The toy trade now use the expression ‘Teddy Bear’ instead of ‘Teddy’s Bear’ which appears in the ‘Playthings’ journal.|
The Aetna Toy Animal Co. was founded in New York NY and remained in business until 1919. Aetna Bears are very rare because the company only made bears for a short time and had only one distributor. The trade mark of the company is a oval stamp on the left foot, marked Aetna.
The Steiff business was renamed Margarete Steiff GmbH and now employed around 400 people with another 1,800 homeworkers.
Gund Manufacturing Co started in 1906 to make their own version of the teddy bear. The company was started by a German emigrant to America, Adolph Gund in Connecticut but moved to New York shortly after. Early bears made by this company have never been identified, so it’s impossible to say what they looked like. The company still exists today, however their bears are no longer made in the US.
Dean’s Rag Book Company producing unbranded bears as early as 1906, and publishes a book entitled “Teddy Bear” in 1907, however their first catalogued teddies were in 1915.
|2 March 1907||
Thomas A Edison and Co. release ‘The Teddy Bears’, the first moving picture featuring seven toy teddy bears of varying sizes suddenly come to life, getting in all sorts of merry misadventures.
John Walter Bratton composed “The Teddy Bear March & Two-step” later known as “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”. A humorous recording of Arthur Pryor’s Band session from 1908 which casts a trombone in the leading role of the growling bear.
Gebruder Bing, of Nuremberg, Gemrany made their first bears with a metal arrow in the ear with the initials G.B.N. set in a diamond.
Steiff started litigation against Bing for using the tag in the ear, so Bing put a metal button underneath the arm instead. Steiff still objected to the word “button”, so Bing instead used “G.B.N.” label under the arm.
John Kirby Farnell, heading his J.K Farnell company of Notting Hill, London, and on recommendation of German Exporters Eisenmann makes their first Teddy Bear, which launches the UK Teddy Bear Industry. Farnell ceased trading in the 1960s and the Farnell name was taken over by Merrythought in 1996.
|1908||Steiff launch their first lawsuits against competitors Wilhelm Strunz and Gebruder Bing to protect their ‘button in Ear’ trademark|
|9 May 1909||Margarete Steiff died of pneumonia in Giengen, Germany. Her entire hometown of Giengen goes into mourning.|
Bing introduced mechanical bears around 1910, many of them dressed. In 1912 a roller-skating bear was produced, operated by a key under the left arm. The bear moves back and forth while one arm moved up and down, it was made of short bristly mohair and was just 20cm (8″) tall.
Marcel Pintel of M. Pintel Fils, Paris, France introduced the first Pintel teddy bear. In 1913 their trademark featuring two embracing bears was registered. During World War I production slowed but by 1920 they produced their first mohair bears with firm filling and tapering limbs. Pintel Teddy Bears before the 1930’s had a metal button attached to their chest. The company closed down during World War II but started up again after the war using whatever materials they could find. They continued to produce Pintel bears until 1976 when the business closed.
First black fur Steiff teddy bears to be given as mourning gifts – after the sinking of RMS Titanic. In 2000, Christie’s, London sold one at auction for £ 91,750.
|24 October 1913||In Neufang, a village in Thuringia, close to Sonneberg, Germany, Artur, sister Adelheid and brother Max Hermann start the production of their first Hermann Teddy Bear under the trading name of Artur Hermann Plusch Spielwaren Fabrik. Around 1920, Artur moved to Sonneberg to begin his own company which in the late 1920’s became known as J Hermann Nachf. Inf. Artur Hermann. The company continued to make teddy bears under this name until 1954 when it was sold to Anker Plush Toys in Munich, Germany.|
|1902-1914||By World War I, Steiff had sold millions of bears in the United States, Germany, and England.|
World War I
The ‘Patriotic Bears’ or “Soldier Bears’, were made during World War I between 1914 and 1920 by J.K. Farnell, were red, white, and blue, were taken to the front as mascots by WWI soldiers. There were occasions the bears were brought back after they were taken from the pockets of soldiers who had died. Other patriotic bears are made by British firms such as Dean’s ‘The Bear of Russia’, ‘Germany’s Crusher’ and Harwin’s ‘Ally Bear’.
Harwin & Co. in England commences production of teddy bears, and at the London Fair in 1916 launched a series of mascot Ally Bears dressed in the uniforms of the allied forces of World War I. The sales manager, Mr. Taylor, used to be a traveling salesman for the German bear manufacturer Steiff, hence the similarities between the bears. Harwin & Co. closed down in 1930, affected by the postwar depression.
The Chad Valley Toy Company produced its first traditional, jointed, plush Teddy Bears in 1915. The bears produced in the 1920’s and 1930’s were marked with a printed, celluloid-covered metal button and/or woven labels. During World War II the Chad Valley factories were used for government contract work and the production of soft toys was drastically cut. At the end of the war Chad Valley switched back to bear production. In 1967 Chad Valley acquired H.G. Stone & Co. Ltd (Chiltern Toys). In the 1970’s manufacturing moved to Pontypool in Wales, and finally in 1978 the firm was taken over by Palitoy. In 1988 Woolworth’s acquired the trade name Chad Valley.
The Chiltern Toy Works in Chesham in Buckinghamshire produced the first bear, “Master Teddy“, but the most popular Chiltern teddy bear was the Hugmee range of bears introduced in 1923. A year later in 1924, Chiltern Toys was registered. Manufacturing moved to Amersham, Bucks and continued producing bears until the factory’s closing in 1960.
The Knickerbocker Toy Company, of New York City opens its doors and begins making teddy bears. The Knickerbocker bears were by far the best American bears from that period. In 1968 the company moved to Middlesex, New Jersey. There, they imported the different parts from Korea, pre-sewn. In the late 1980’s the company closed down.
Early Bing teddy bears resembled Steiff bears but changed it’s design around 1920, using a longer snout with distinctive stitching on the muzzle and a very wide smile. Around 1920, Bing stopped using the tag and replaced it with a metal label attached to the right arm. Bing stopped producing bears in 1932.
|November 1920||Writer Mary Tourtel’s Creation ‘Rupert Bear’ first appears in the British newspaper ‘The Daily Express’.|
|November 1920||Farnell’s Harry Stone and Leon Rees form an alliance and establish H.G. Stone to produce Chiltern Soft Toys|
|1920’s and 1930’s||English bears tended to be softer in look and feel than their German cousins, and were a major influence throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. With a ban on toy imports from Germany and imposition of import duty leads UK firms such as Chad Valley, H.G. Stone, Merrythought, Deans and J.K. Farnell to expand in both UK and foreign markets.|
|1921||J.K. Farnell establish the trade name ‘Alpha’ and become a Private Limited Company: Alpha Works Built. Farnell bears are generally acknowledged to be the English equivalent of Steiff.|
Heinrich Mueller (ex employee of Gebruder Bing) founded Schuco (trade name for Schreyer & Co.) in 1912 in Nuremburg as one of the premier early German teddy bear producers. Introduced in 1920 and patented in 1921, the “Yes-No” bear is the first “talking bear” — that allow users to rotate the bear’s head to say yes or no. Glass eyes were used from 1923 onward. The trademark was a small tumbling man.
A.A. Milne’s wife buys a Farnell Bear from Harrods London most possibly an ‘Alpha’ bear for their son Christopher Robin’s first birthday — the original “Winnie the Pooh“.
|1921||Richard and Louise Fiddes register the Fideston Toy Company in Australia producing over 1,000 hand-made bears per month. Fideston closed during WW2 after nineteen years of production.|
|1923||Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kirby establish Joy Toys in South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia, and go on to make over 50,000 bears up until the 1960’s.|
|1923||Chiltern Hugmee Bears are advertised for the first time|
|1925||French Company, Fadap (Fabrication Artistique d’Animaux en Peluche) began Teddy Bear production from their factory in Divonne-les-Bains. Early Fadap Teddy Bears are rather tubby, they have long arms and thick paws and tend to have upturned noses and a seam swen under their chin. Old Fadap Teddy Bears also wore a metal button in their ear, with the words ‘’Fadap” and ‘’France” embossed on it. Sadly, Fadap closed it’s doors in 1978.|
In 1926, A.A. Milne wrote “Winnie-the-Pooh“, a bedtime story about his son’s adventures with his stuffed animals.
The Great Depression
Bernard Hermann, son of Artur and Ida Hermann also set up in the bear making business, with a new company, Gebruder Hermann . The company traded as ‘Be-Ha‘ until after the second world war when it was reorganized to become Hermann Teddy Original (Gebuder Hermann KG). Their red tag identifies these Hermann bears. The company produced quality bears. It introduced its collector series in the 1980’s designed in house and moved on to commission bear artists to design teddy bears for them.
Max Hermann, another son of Artur Hermann, branched out from the main company of Artur Hermann Plusch Spielwaren Fabrik (formed in 1913) to produce his own designs. In 1947, his son, Rolf-Gerhard joined the company and the company changed it’s name from Max Hermann to Hermann and Sonn. After WWII the family worked in the US zone of Germany but by 1953 had completely moved its operations to Coburg. In order to mark and identify his Teddy Bears as different from other other family companies, Max Hermann develops the “The Green Triangle” and “The Bear with the Running Dog” logo introduced in 1968. They then changed the style of these tags in 1977 to include the new company name which had now been registered as Hermann-Spielwaren GmbH. The company has gone from strength to strength producing its first collector’s series in house. In the 1980’s they also commissioned teddy bear artists to design for them.
|1929||Depression hits following the Wall Street Crash — many people resort to producing their own teddy bears from cheap patterns out of household materials such as burlap and old blankets. Manufacturers economise on materials creating bears such as the ‘Stick Bears’, in the USA|
Gordon Holmes and George H. Laxton found Merrythought is founded in Ironbridge, Shropshire, England which goes on to become the oldest and most prestigious of England’s bear makers. Late 1920’s
|1933||In Germany, Hitler comes to power and the rise of the National Socialist Party has an impact on the German Toy industry. The Steiff Factory is affected as Enrst and Hugo Steiff are removed from the office because of their Jewish sympathies. In Schuco Adolf Kahn who is a Jew has to leave for England.|
|1937||In England. the Coronation of George VI following Edward VIII’s abdication inspires Patriotic Teddy Bears in Red, White and Blue.|
H.M. Queen Elizabeth of the UK (The Late Queen Mother) grants a Royal Warrant of Appointment, “Toymakers to Her Majesty the Queen” to Chad Valley Toy Company.
|1938||Nylon is used in Teddy Bear production for the first time|
World War II
WWII brought a halt to bear production across Europe. When things gradually returned to normal, many new Teddy designs appeared alongside the traditional jointed bears. Many raw materials are unavailable or in short supply resulting in lesser output and many economy measure. Some Teddies were used as propaganda campaigns to support the war effort. The use of alternative fabrics and more new Teddy Bear designs incorporating economy features such as shorter limbs and muzzles, flat faces such as the Flat Face Chiltern Bears and unjointed necks are used by manufacturers. Teddy Bear firms are obliged to do essential war work. English Teddy Bear company Dean’s makes life jackets, Chad Valley manufactures Children’s clothing and Merrythought produces Military uniform accessories. Likewise in Germany the Steiff company makes munitions and Schuco Telephone and communications equipment.
|1944||Smokey Bear is adopted as the mascot of the United States Forestry Commissions Fire Prevention Campaign.|
The Ideal Toy Company produced the original Smokey Bear with his familiar ranger hat, belt and badge until 1963.
Wendy Boston (Crickhowell) Ltd. revolutionized bear manufacturing by introducing the first washable bear to Britain in 1954 and also introduced the safe screw in locked plastic eyes which was attached by a rust proof nut behind the plush. Most of the teddy bears were made of synthetic fibers like nylon, were unjointed with undefined feet and often have ears in one piece with the head. This was so they wouldn’t lose an ear when line dried.
|1955||The Wendy Boston teddy bears proved to be very popular after their launch on BBC television in 1955.|
|1955-1976||By 1964, as Wendy Boston’s companies were producing over a quarter of UK’s total synthetic fiber teddy bear exports. Denys Fisher Toys took over the company in 1968 and closed down operations in 1976.|
Publication of the first Paddington Bear story – “A Bear Called Paddington” by Michael Bond.
|1960’s-1970’s||The Wendy Boston design influenced most of the bears made throughout the 1960s and ’70s – and its shape even affected the look of jointed bears. The U.S. market was overwhelmed with cheap plush toys from Asian factories. By the end of the ’60s, the traditional teddy bear seemed to be on the verge of extinction.|
After the Ideal Toy Company‘s license is not renewed, Knickerbocker, of New York City won the license to manufacture ‘Smokey Bear‘, until 1977.
|1967||Chad Valley took over Chiltern produced teddy bears under the Chad Valley/Chiltern label.|
Teddy bear collector Peter Bull published his 1969 book on his obsession — “The Teddy Bear Book” generated interest in bears, and interest in old-fashioned bears surged.
|1970’s||From the mid-1970s onwards, adults began collecting Teddy Bears looking for a combination of modern designs and traditional vintage bears. As manufacturers realized the interest in old bears, they began to aim some of their new products at collectors, rather than children.|
|27 May 1979||More than 15,000 people and 2,000 teddy bears gather for the Great Teddy Bear Rally to raise money for charity organized by the Marquis of Bath at his Longleat estate in Wilshire, England.|
|1980’s||Steiff produced their first limited edition replica bears aimed at adult teddy bear collectors.|
TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited released, featuring Aloysius, beloved of Lord Sebastian Flyte (played by Anthony Andrews). Aloysius, is credited with having triggered, in part, the late-20th century teddy bear renaissance. Aloysius, though, is really just a stage name. Made in 1907 by the Ideal Toy Company, USA, he lived in Maine sitting on a shelf in a grocery store. Actor Peter Bull, wrote a book in 1969 called ‘Bear With Me’. On a TV plug for the book, the owner of the shop sent Bull her teddy. For 10 years he was with Bull he was known as Delicatessen. Today, Aloysius is happily living out his retirement in the Teddy Bears Of Witney museum, near Oxford, England.
|1985||Christie’s auction house in London hosted the first auction devoted to antique and vintage teddy bears.|
Berlin Wall Comes Down
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany reunifies in 1990, and German factories and labor pools flourish. The advent of the limited edition German Teddy Bears begin.
|1990||The first Hermann Teddy Bear Original Limited Edition released.|
The first Merrythought Limited Edition is released
|1993||Since 1993, all Hermann-Coburg Teddy Bears are marked with a special “neck mark”, which is sealed tight on the Bear’s neck with a “Triangle shape” with the imprint of “The Bear with the Running Dog”.|
The world auction record for a teddy bear was set at the time at Christie’s London in 1994 when “Teddy Girl,” a 1904 cinnamon Steiff mohair teddy bear, sold for £110,000 to a Japanese man Yoshiro Sekiguchi (founder of the Teddy Bear Musem in Izu, Japan).
|14 October 2000||
The world record for most expensive bear was beaten when Steiff’s ‘Louis Vuitton‘ Bear measuring 45 cm (17″) sold for €213,720 ($182,550 / £125,831) at “Les Teddies de l’an 2000‘, a charity auction in Monaco. Designed with the Colchicine Fashion House, and dressed in Louis Vuitton, Korean Jesse Kim bought the bear for the Teddy Bear Museum in Jeju, South Korea.
According to Guinness World Records, the smallest commercially available stitched teddy bear (called “Tiny Ted“) measures 9 mm (0.29 in) and was made by Cheryl Moss (South Africa). Tiny Ted now resides in the Teddy Bear Museum in Jeju, South Korea.
Did You Know?
Vintage teddy bears were most often made out of wool mohair. Silk plush bears were introduced around 1930, but cotton plush wasn’t used until after World War II and synthetics didn’t appear until the 1950s.
Eyes. The earliest bears have boot-button eyes. In the 1920s, glass eyes became the most common, while in the 1950s eyes were made of plastic.
Nose. Each manufacturer had its own unique nose stitching—early noses were stitched out of woven silk.
Filling. The oldest antique teddy bears are hard-stuffed with excelsior (wood wool). If lightweight, likely stuffed with fibers from the kapok tree. Bears filled with foam are newer.
Paws. Vintage bears had pads made of felt or cotton, although the cotton would have worn out and been replaced by now. Velvet and rexine (a fake leather) were also used for paw pads starting in the late 1930s.
How did Winnie The Pooh start?
On August 21, 1921, A.A. Milne gave his son, Christopher Robin Milne, a teddy bear for his first birthday. Christopher named his bear Edward Bear because Edward is the proper name for Teddy. Milne bought Edward Bear at Harrod’s in London, England. It was made by J.K. Farnell & Co. in England.
|Steiff – Winnie the Pooh (c. 2002) Hand-made limited edition bear from our collection||Various merchandise from Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne|
Between 1920 and 1928, Christopher Robin Milne received other stuffed animals. In 1926, A.A. Milne began writing bedtime stories about his son’s adventures with his stuffed animals, including his bear who was renamed, Winnie-the-Pooh. Thus Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit, and the 100 Acre Wood were born. The 100 Acre Wood is based on the Ashdown Forest, located near Milne’s home in southern England.
The name Winnie-the-Pooh came from a combination of a bear and a swan. “Winnie” was the name of a black bear in the London Zoo in the 1920’s. Winnie had been the mascot for the Canadian Army’s Winnipeg regiment. “Pooh” was the name of a swan in A.A. Milne’s book, “When We Were Very Young.”
USA vs. German Design
American Bear ca. 1902
Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, which operated from 1902-1984, created the first American bear. It’s characteristics were:
- Trademarks not used in first bears; later trademarks used were two variations of labels, one shaped like a circus wagon and one marked “Ideal”.
- Height: 19.5″ tall
- Made of golden colored mohair
- Pointed pads on feet
- Broad, flattish triangular heads
- Black nose
- Long and tapered arms
- Curved paws with felt bads
- Rounded thighs and heels with pointed toes
- Stuffed with excelsior
- Black shoe-button eyes
German Bear ca. 1902
Steiff GmbH, which operated since 1880, created the first full jointed bear. It’s characteristics include:
- Metal button pegged into left ear, made from brass, iron, nickel-plated and in limited editions, gold (beginning in 1904)
- Cloth ear tags sewn into the chest area “Steiff Original”, “Made in Germany” or “Made in US-Zone Germany” in white, red, beige or yellow.
- Oldest bears made from mohair, 1947 onward, synthetic fiber.
- The most desirable are made with cinnomon or white mohair.
- Stuffing 1904 was wood-wool (excelsior), these models had voice boxes
- Early Steiffs had old shoe-button eyes, 1910 changed to glass
- Bears from 1904 had five claws and felt pads, 1906 had four
- Every 7th Steiff bear before 1905, were made with a hand-sewn seam down the middle.
- Original bears did not have moveable limbs; in 1905, moveable joints made from heavy card.
Who Was Margarete Steiff?
Margarete Steiff (born 24 July 1847 in Giengen, near Ulm, Germany) is considered the inventor of the first stuffed animal. Despite stricken with Polio, with paralysis in her right hand, she could not stop to use a sewing machine. At 17, she finally completed her training as a seamstress. In 1880, she founded the Margarete Steiff GmbH company. Their first “Elefänte” was originally conceived as a pincushion, but the great success as children’s toys, opened new markets. Consequently, more animals were designed and produced. The invention of the first teddy bear with movable arms and legs arrived in 1902. The trademark “Steiff – Button in Ear” was developed in 1904. In 1909 Margarete Steiff died of pneumonia at the age of 61. The family company continued her legacy, and went on to create more than 20,000 different animals designs over the last century, with millions and millions of teddy bears over it’s illustrious and crazy history.