A teddy bear is a stuffed toy in the form of a bear.
It was named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, after he refused to shoot a bear during a Mississippi hunting trip in November 1902. During the trip, guides clubbed a bear and tied it to a tree then invited the president to shoot it. Instead, Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman and hunter, declined, saying it would be unsportsmanlike to kill a defenseless animal that way.
The incident generated national attention and was depicted in a popular political cartoon by Clifford Berryman. (According to some sources, the newspaper cartoon, titled “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” was a reference not just to Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot the bruin but also to his handling of a boundary dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana.)
Inspired by the cartoon, Brooklyn, New York, shopkeeper Morris Michtom and his wife Rose created a tiny soft bear cub and put it in his candy shop window at 404 Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn with a sign “Teddy’s bear.” After sending a bear to Roosevelt and receiving permission to use his name, he began to produce them commercially to great demand. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.
A little earlier in 1902 in Germany, the Steiff firm produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff’s designs. Steiff exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903, where it was seen by Hermann Berg, a buyer for George Borgfeldt & Company in New York (and the brother of composer Alban Berg). He ordered 3,000 to be sent to the United States. Although Steiff’s records show that the bears were produced, they are not recorded as arriving in the U.S., and no example of the type, “55 PB”, has ever been seen, leading to the story that the bears were shipwrecked. However, the story is disputed – author Günther Pfeiffer notes that it was only recorded in 1953 and says it is more likely that the 55 PB was not sufficiently durable to
survive until the present day. Although Steiff and Michtom were both making teddy bears at around the same time, neither would have known of the other’s creation due to poor transatlantic communication.
North American educator Seymour Eaton wrote the children’s book series The Roosevelt Bears, while composer John Walter Bratton wrote an instrumental “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”, a “characteristic two-step”, in 1907, which later had words written to it by lyricist Jimmy Kennedy in 1932.
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 and smaller noses, babylike features intended to enhance the toy’s “cuteness”. Some teddy bears are also designed to represent different species, such as polar bears and brown bears, as well as pandas and koalas.
While early teddy bears were covered in tawny mohair fur, modern teddy bears are manufactured in a wide variety of commercially available fabrics, most commonly synthetic fur, but also velour, denim, cotton, satin, and canvas.
Winnie-the-Pooh is the name of a fictional character created by A. A. Milne, based on a teddy bear owned by his son Christopher Robin, who was the basis of the eponymous character in A. A. Milne’s work. Milne wrote many stories featuring Pooh Bear, some of which were adapted by the Walt Disney Company into theatrical shorts or compiled into movies such as 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the 2011 film Winnie the Pooh.
The world’s first teddy bear museum was set up in Petersfield, Hampshire, England, in 1984. In 1990, a similar foundation was set up in Naples, Florida, United States. These were closed in 2006 and 2005 respectively, and the bears were sold in auctions, but there are many teddy bear museums around the world today.
Today, one family claims to own more than 5,000 teddy bears, though they haven’t officially counted them all. The Volpps’ collection includes a teddy bear that they purchased at auction for $88,000.
The largest collection of teddy bears is 20,367 items and was achieved by Istvánné Arnóczki (Hungary) in Harsány, Hungary, on 27 April 2019. As a child, Arnóczki grew up in poverty and never owned a teddy bear.
Her dream was to have one that she could cuddle at night. She bought her first ever teddy bear in 1978, when she was in her twenties, and never stopped buying more!
The largest teddy bear measures 19.41 m (63 ft 8 in) in length, and was constructed by Municipio de Xonacatlán, Ideas por México and Agrupación de Productores de Peluche (all Mexico), in Estado de México, on 28 April 2019. The bear was displayed at the local stadium in the city of Xonacatlán, and was made with the same materials of a commercial available teddy bear, including details such as tiara, dress, eyes and nose.
A Steiff bear named Teddy Girl was sold for £110,000 ($171,600), more than 18 times the estimate and twice the previous world record, by Christie’s, London, UK on 5 December 1994 to Japanese businessman Yoshihiro Sekiguchi. The bear was made in 1905, only a year after Steiff made he first jointed plush teddy bear, and had a particularly well-documented history. She belonged to a prominent collector, Colonel Bob Henderson, who took her everywhere with him – even to his landing on the D-Day beaches, where he was a small arms adviser to Field Marshal Montogomery.
A Steiff ‘Louis Vuitton’ teddy bear made in 2000 and measuring 45 cm (17 in) sold for €213,720 ($182,550 – £125,831) on 14 October 2000 at Christie’s, Monaco.
The smallest commercially available stitched teddy bear measures 9 mm (0.35 in) and was made by Cheryl Moss (South Africa). Cheryl has been making and selling ‘Microbears’ for 6 years in specialist teddy bear stores. Microbears range from 9 mm to 13 mm in size.
The longest line of teddy bears consists of 15,534 bears and was achieved by Finlay Church (UK) at the Alvechurch Cricket Club in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, UK, on 3 May 2015. The line measured 2,106 m (6,909 ft 5.22 in) in length.