Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Samantha's Mohair Teddy Bear: History of the Teddy Bear

Hey Followers!

     I am so sorry it has been so long since I have written. Life can be so busy!
     So lately I have been mainly collecting for Samantha and Rebecca...probably because the tv show Downton Abbey had reignited my love for the Edwardian Era.
     So I recently bought her Teddy Bear, the original Pleasant Company bear that was made in England. The bear was made by a company called Merrythoughts and if I am not mistaken... the Pleasant Company bears were handmade just like all the other bears this company makes. It is also made of real mohair just like the bears in 1904 would have been made. The company started out in 1907 as a mohair company called Holmes, Laxton, & Co. In the 1930's the company changed its name to Merrythoughts and started producing teddy bears. Samantha's bear is actually a model called "London Gold Bears" that first started in 1965 (usually with a red ribbon around it's neck rather than pink. So technically...Samantha's bear couldn't have been made by Merrythoughts in 1904 but I still love this piece. In the book, Happy Birthday, Samantha... Samantha is gifted this teddy bear by her twin cousins, Agne
s and Agatha. This gift was on every child's wishlist in Edwardian times.
1888 Illustration from Goldilocks Book
     Although there are some whom believe the teddy bear was probably around in a homemade version since the 1880's.. around the time that the well known story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was published. The original book has three images that feature stuffed teddy bears in them. These pictures were illustrated 15 years before the first officially documented teddy bear.
   The story of the first teddy bear that most people are familiar with may not be the actual first teddy bear, but it is definitely how they received their name....
Drawing by Clifford Berryman
     The sight of a Teddy Bear usually gives us a warm fuzzy feeling... but the start of the Teddy Bear came from a day of suffering for one bear. In November of 1902, current president at the time Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt went on a guided bear hunt. The first day was unsuccessful in spotting a bear. On the second day, the guide's hounds picked up the scent and quickly found and cornered a huge black bear. In the fight for its life, the bear injured and even killed one of the dogs. The guide knew his dogs were in a great deal of danger but wanted to save the kill for the President whom was not around at this time. The guide used the butt of his rifle to knock the bear unconscious and then chained the bear to a tree. When the President finally arrived to the scene, he was so horrified by the sight of the poor bear that he couldn't bring himself to shoot it. He also realized that the bear was suffering so much that he told someone else to put the bear out of his misery. The news of the presidents compassion inspired one cartoon artist named Clifford Berryman to make a comic drawing of the event that was quickly published in the Washington Post. The artist continued to use the "teddy bear" as a symbol for the president in his future political cartoons.
Edwardian boy playing chauffeur to his teddies
    Shortly after the story was released about the president, a Russian Jewish immigrant family, Morris and Rose Michtom. living in New York (sound familiar?!) found inspiration in the tale. The candy shop owners made a stuffed bear toy out of velvet. The next morning, the first teddy bear was in the window of their store. Many people asked to buy the bear but the couple was concerned they might get into some trouble using the presidents name so they actually wrote a letter to President Roosevelt asking for permission and also sending the original bear as a gift to his children. The president consented. The toy bears were such a big hit that the Michtom's stopped selling candy in their shop and only sold teddy bears from then on. They ended up making a fortune!
Edwardian girl with her teddy
    Around the same time, the Steiff brand were starting to make stuffed bears in Germany. The company that originated by a German seamstress named Margarete Steiff making stuffed elephants, moved on to making other animals. Plans were made to make stuffed bears with movable limbs, made of soft mohair fabrics. The seamstress teamed up with her nephew, Richard Steiff to make the bears. Richard brought the finished product to a toy fair and at first there was no interest. Towards the end of the day, a frustrated Richard Steiff began to load the bears into wooden crates to bring back home. Steiff was approached by a trader from New York who was also frustrated. He was sent from the states to bring back something new and so far, nothing took his fancy. Steiff showed him the bears and they were a hit with the american trader. He ended up ordering 3000 bears right there on the spot to bring back to the states! I won't go into it much, but oddly enough the original bears (simply known as '55 PB') have disappeared from existence. There is a theory that they were shipwrecked but no one knows for sure. But anyways..  by 1907, the small Steiff company had expanded to over 400 employees and 1800 at home workers who together produced about 974,000 bears. The Steiff company is still around today and still doing well!
    Since then, Teddy Bears have been a huge part of childhood for pretty much everyone. Ask anyone and I am sure that 99% of them will tell you that they owned a teddy bear before. Teddy's have inspired many beloved children's books and movie characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, and Corduroy. There is still stores that only sell teddy bears like the Michtom's, such as the well know company Build a Bear Workshop, that you can make your own bear and choose a wardrobe for them. I believe the teddy bear will be a staple in every childhood for a long time to come.
       Well that is about it! I hope you have enjoyed! I have had nothing but positive feedback from my readers and it really keeps me going! I promise there is more to come! Make sure you follow me on Instagram so you never miss a post!
I had Miss. Rebecca Rubin model this bear instead of Samantha because it arrived on April 4th... her birthday in her books! It only seemed fitting that she get a teddy bear!! :)