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Enjoy & Learn

Just a Toy or a Real Friend?

A teddy bear is a stuffed animal toy, often serving the purpose of comforting upset children. In Britain and America, teddy bears are typically given to babies and very young children. Some older children, and even some adults, still have the teddy bears that they were fond of when they were younger.

Today neither adults nor kids can imagine a world without that eager listener and loyal friend, the teddy bear. But the teddy bear has not always been with us. In fact, the teddy bear did not make its entrance until late in 1902. Then, the teddy bear appeared in the same year in two different parts of the world: Germany and the United States.

A teddy bear story

In America, the teddy bear, according to tradition, got its start with a cartoon. The cartoon, drawn by Clifford Berryman and titled ‘Drawing the Line in Mississippi,’ showed President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a baby bear. According to this often told tale, in November 1902 Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, was hunting in Mississippi. The president failed to make a kill so his hosts caught and tethered a bear, presenting it to the president as a sitting target. Naturally the President refused, uttering the immortal words, ‘Spare the bear! I will not shoot a tethered animal.’ Roosevelt’s refusal to fire at such a helpless target inspired Berryman to draw his cartoon: Roosevelt was drawing the line– settling a border dispute and refusing to shoot a captive animal.

The cartoon appeared in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It caused an immediate sensation and was reprinted widely. Apparently this cartoon even inspired Morris and Rose Michtom of Brooklyn, New York, to make a bear in honor of the president’s actions. The Michtoms named their creation “Teddy’s Bear” and placed it in the window of their candy and stationery store. Instead of looking fierce and standing on all four paws like previous toy bears, the Michtoms’ bear looked sweet, innocent and upright, like the bear in Berryman’s cartoon. Perhaps that’s why “Teddy’s Bear” was a hit with the buying public. In fact, the demand was so strong that the Michtoms, with the help of a wholesale firm called Butler Brothers, founded the first teddy bear manufacturer in the United States, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in Germany, Richard Steiff was working for his aunt, Margarete Steiff, in her stuffed toy business. Richard, a former art student, often visited the Stuttgart Zoo to sketch animals, particularly the bear cubs. In 1902, the same year the Michtoms created “Teddy’s Bear,” the Steiff firm made a prototype of a toy bear based on Richard’s designs.

Both the Michtoms and Steiff were working on bears at the same time but they didn’t know about the other’s creation. The Michtoms’ bear resembled the wide-eyed cub in the Berryman cartoon, while the Steiff bear, with its humped back and long snout, looked more like a real bear cub.

“Teddy Bear” without the apostrophe-S, became the accepted term for this plush bruin, first appearing in print in the October 1906 issue of Playthings magazine. Even Steiff, a German company, adopted the name for its bears.

President Roosevelt, after using a bear as a mascot in his re-election bid, was serving his second term. Seymour Eaton, an educator and a newspaper columnist, was writing a series of children’s books about the adventures of The Roosevelt Bears, and another American, composer J.K. Bratton, wrote The Teddy Bear Two Step. That song would become, with the addition of words, The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

The comeback of the teddy after years of mass-production was triggered, not by a bear maker, but by an actor. On television, British actor Peter Bull openly expressed his love for teddy bears and his belief in the teddy bear’s importance in the emotional life of adults. After receiving 2000 letters in response to his public confession, Peter realized he wasn’t alone. In 1969, inspired by this response, he wrote a book about his lifelong affection for teddy bears, Bear with Me, later called The Teddy Bear Book. His book struck an emotional chord in thousands who also believed in the importance of teddy bears. Without intending to, Bull created an ideal climate for the teddy bear’s resurgence. The teddy bear began to regain its popularity, not so much as a children’s toy, but as a collectible for adults.

In 1974, Beverly Port, an American doll maker who also loved making teddy bears, dared to take a teddy bear she made to a doll show. At the show, she presented Theodore B. Bear holding the hand of one of her dolls. The next year, Beverly presented a slide show she had created about teddy bears for the United Federation of Doll Clubs. That show quickly became a sensation. Other people, first in the United States and then all over world, caught Beverly’s affection for the teddy bear. They, too, began applying their talents to designing and making teddy bears. One by one, and by hand, teddy bear artistry was born with Beverly, who coined the term “teddy bear artist,” and is often cited as the mother of teddy bear artistry. Today thousands of teddy bears artists, often working from their homes all over the world, create soft sculpture teddy bear art for eager collectors.

Artist Bears are not mass produced and definitely not intended for small children. In fact, most carry a tag saying just that. These bears are intended for an adult market of avid collectors. They are individually created by a whole host of artists around the world. Many of these artists design their own bears as well as making them by hand or stitching them on home sewing machines. These bears are not mass marketed. They are available for purchase through the individual artists, specialty shops, web sites, and at art shows, Teddy Bear shows and craft shows across the globe. These bears are almost always jointed with movable heads, arms and legs. The jointing systems to attach these appendages and heads are most often disk and screw or disk and cotter pin combinations but can be done with buttons, simple string, chain or any other method an enterprising artist may devise.

The “fur” from which these charming creatures are made is as varied and interesting as the bears themselves. Mohair, the fur shorn or combed from a breed of long haired goats, is woven into cloth, dyed and trimmed to produce a fascinating choice for any artist’s palette. In addition to mohair, there is a huge selection of “plush” or synthetic fur made for the teddy bear market. Both these types of fur are commercially produced.

Some teddy bear artists specialize in the production of bears made from recycled materials. They haunt thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales and trash collection centers as well as their own and their family’s basements and attics in search of forgotten treasures to be turned into a collector’s dream. Old quilts, dresses, fur collars, coats and stoles as well as beaded bags and garments are quickly transformed into stunning teddy bears.

This increased appreciation for the teddy bear as an adult collectible has also increased the value of antique teddy bears, the hand-finished, high-quality teddy bears manufactured in the first decades of the 20th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, these old, manufactured teddy bears began showing up in antique doll and toy auctions, and they began winning higher and higher bids. For collectors very early Steiff bears, with their hump backs, long snouts, large tapered feet and elongated arms with curved paws, are the most sought-after.

The record price for one teddy bear, Teddy Girl by Steiff, is $176,000; that bear was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1994.

Teddy Bear Festivals

Featuring the work of around 150 teddy bear artists and creators, the Hugglets Teddy Bear Festivals are held twice a year at Kensington Town Hall, Hornton Street, London, England. There are over 170 stands with thousands of bears on sale. The furry extravaganza offers antique and modern bears for sale, free valuations, teddy bear books, clothes, best-dressed bear competitions and much more. This festival is a superb opportunity to find a bear that is unique and lovingly hand-made.

Our love affair with the teddy bear shows no signs of abating…

A-Z Bear Celebrities


Barnaby is the British version of the Colargol animated series.

Bobby Bear

British comic-strip teddy bear character, Bobby Bear, published in the Daily Herald.

Boo Boo Bear

Yogi’s small friend. Stretching literary license significantly, the relationship of Yogi and Boo Boo could be compared to that of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, in the context of the whimsical, adventurous leader and his practical sidekick.


Colargol was created by a French writer Olga Pouchine in the 1950s. It is a little bear who wanted to sing and travel the world. The famous animated series was created by the Polish Studio Se-Ma-For.


Cuddly is a traveling blogger Teddy Bear from the UK.

Floydie Bear

A somewhat mischievous Teddy Bear who helps others: “Placing teddies who need homes into homes that need teddies”–that’s how the mission is explained on the web site www.floydiebear.com. Floyd’s Teddy Bear Academy works to bring love, friendship and security to needy teddies and children. Previously loved teddies come from thrift stores, attics and empty bedrooms to Floyd’s Teddy Bear Academy for love, washing, repairs and the anticipation of new friendships. Through the sale of Floyd’s Certified Teddy Bear Poop, Floyd’s Teddy Bear Academy sends the teddies to children who are waiting for loyal, unconditionally loving friends.

Fozzie Bear

A Muppet character created by Jim Henson. A not so funny standup comedian who can wiggle his ears.


At 8.5 mm tall, a teddy made by Lynn Lumb of Halifax, England, enters The Guinness Book of Records as the world’s smallest teddy bear (1998). The smallest commercially available stitched teddy bear (9 mm tall) was made by Cheryl Moss (2003).

Jeremy the Bear

Jeremy is the Canadian version of Colargol.

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear is a fictional character from children’s literature. He first appeared in 1958 in a book written by Michael Bond. The illustrations show him more as a teddy bear than a real bear. According to legend, Bond based the character on a teddy bear he and his wife saw in a store around Christmas. They bought it because it was the only one left on the shelf and they thought it was lonely. Paddington is an anthropomorphized bear. He is a stowaway from “Darkest Peru” and goes to live with an English family. He speaks English, wears a battered hat which he refuses to part with, and carries with him everywhere a battered suitcase containing his personal belongings. When found and in the early editions, he also wore a duffle coat and Wellington boots. He is always polite, well meaning, likes marmalade sandwiches and cocoa, and has an endless capacity for getting into trouble. However, he is known to “try so hard to get things right.”

Pooky the Teddy Bear

Garfield’s huggable teddy bear. The comic strip shows Garfield searching through Jon Arbuckle’s bottom drawer, finding Pooky, and adopting him as his own. Once, Pooky lost an eye for several episodes. It was replaced the following Christmas. In addition, Pooky was once squeezed too much by Garfield and got an inflated head. Afterwards, Garfield tried to squeeze him back but this made his head thin and body thick. In a few strips, he is referred to as “Pookie” but “Pooky” is clearly used more often.

Rupert Bear

Rupert wears a red top, yellow checked trousers and a yellow checked scarf. Rupert Bear is a cartoon character created by Mary Tourtel and who first appeared in the Daily Express on November 8, 1920.

Smokey Bear

Smokey Bear is the mascot of the United States Forest Service created in 1944 to educate the public on the dangers of forest fires. Smokey is typically depicted as a bear in a biped humanoid form wearing blue jeans, a belt and a flat brimmed forest ranger’s hat. Smokey can frequently be seen standing upright with his feet planted on ground, carrying a shovel with a long wooden handle. Smokey’s real-life counterpart was a black bear cub who in the spring of 1950 was caught in the Capitan Gap fire, a wildfire in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. He had climbed a tree to escape the blaze, but his paws and hind legs had been burned. At first he was called Hotfoot Teddy, but was later named Smokey, after the mascot. A local rancher who had been helping fight the fire took the cub home with him, but the animal needed veterinary treatment so a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Ranger took the bear to Santa Fe. Smokey was then sent to the National Zoo in Washington, DC, where he lived for 26 years.


Sooty is a teddy bear glove puppet and magician. He was originally devised and operated by Harry Corbett who bought Sooty from a stall when he was on holiday in Blackpool in 1948. The original bear was completely yellow, and Harry covered his ears and nose with soot so that he would show up better on black and white television–hence the puppet’s name. Sooty wouldn’t speak to the audience but could communicate with Harry by apparently whispering in his ear. Sooty fluctuated between kindness, cheekiness, and downright naughtiness, very often misinterpreting things said or suggested by Harry. He played the xylophone and kept a wand with which he performed magic. This was accompanied by the catchphrase “Izzy wizzy, let’s get busy!”


Teddy is Mr. Bean’s teddy bear, generally regarded as Mr. Bean’s best friend. Although inanimate, the bear is often party to Mr. Bean’s various schemes and doubles as a good dish cloth or paint brush in an emergency. The bear is a dark brown, knitted oddity with button eyes and sausage- shaped limbs and invariably ends up torn in half or in various other states of damage.

Teddy Ruxpin

Teddy Ruxpin is an animatronic teddy bear invented by Ken Forsse, Larry Larsen and John Davies. He was first produced in 1985 by toy manufacturer Worlds of Wonder. Teddy would move his mouth and eyes as he read stories via a standard audio tape deck built into his back.

Uszatek, Miś Uszatek

A cute bear from an animated series for children in Poland, Uszatek Teddy Bear was born in 1957, created by writer Czesław Janczarski and illustrator Zbigniew Rychlicki. Recently popular in Japan as Kumachan.


The main character in A. A. Milne’s children’s stories, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). Milne named the character Winnie-the-Pooh after a toy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin Milne, who was the basis for the character Christopher Robin. Christopher Milne had named his toy after Winnipeg, a bear which he and his father often saw at the London Zoo, and “Pooh,” a swan they had met while on holiday. The bear, called “Winnie,” was known as a gentle bear who never attacked anyone, and she was much loved for her playfulness. This is exactly what inspired Milne to write about Pooh Bear.

Yogi Bear

A US television cartoon character created in 1958 by Hanna and Barbera, Yogi is a cheerful bear who wears a flat hat and white collar and lives in a park with his small bear friend Boo Boo. The plot of most of Yogi’s cartoons is centered around his antics in the fictional Jellystone Park, a takeoff on the famous Yellowstone National Park. Yogi, accompanied by his reluctant best friend Boo Boo, would often try to steal ‘Pic-anic’ baskets from campers in the park, much to the chagrin of Park Ranger Smith. A girlfriend bear, Cindy, turned up sometimes, and normally disapproved of Yogi’s behavior. Besides often speaking in rhymes, Yogi Bear is well-known for a variety of different catchphrases, including his pet name for picnic baskets (“pic-a-nic baskets”) and his favorite self-promotion (“I’m smarter than the average bear!”), although he often overestimates his own cleverness. He also liked to say, “Hey there, Boo boo!”, as his preferred greeting to his humbler sidekick.

Bears, Teddy Bears and the English Language

bear hug

an act of showing affection for somebody by holding them very tightly and strongly in your arms. A “hug” is not only a warm physical expression of caring but is also a collection of stuffed bears (like a gaggle of geese or a pride of lions). The term was actually coined by well-known collector and author Peter Bull

bear market

(finance) a period during which people are selling shares, etc. rather than buying, because they expect the prices to fall


showing or expecting a fall in the prices of shares: a bearish market

like a bear with a sore head

(informal) bad-tempered or in a bad-tempered way; a person who is a very bad-tempered and does not seem to want the company of other people

teddy boy (also ted)

(in Britain, especially in the 1950s) a young man following a popular fashion in clothing and music. Teddy boys wore long, loose jackets, called drape coats, very narrow trousers, called drainpipes, and leather shoes with narrow points at the end, called winkle-pickers, or soft shoes with thick rubber soles, called brothel creepers. They put special oil on their hair and arranged it so that it stood up at the front. Teddy boys were closely associated with rock and roll music. They were seen as rebellious and were sometimes involved in fights. Their style of clothing was intended to be similar to that of certain fashionable young men in Britain during the Edwardian period in the early 20th century. (Ted is a short form of Edward.)

teddy, often teddies

a woman’s one-piece undergarment combining a chemise and underpants, sometimes having a snap crotch.

the Teddy Bear Effect

refers to the phenomenon where a passive listener appears to impart wisdom to a speaker without doing anything other than listening. People who ask someone a question expecting to learn something from the answer often discover the answer for themselves simply through the act of putting their question into words. The listener is compared to a Teddy Bear because evidently a stuffed animal would have served the same purpose. In medicine, the Teddy Bear Effect is sometimes compared to the Placebo Effect. 

Elżbieta Zatorska
FELBERG branch in Łódź


abate (formal) to become less strong; to make something less strong
antics behavior which is ridiculous or dangerous
avid very enthusiastic about something (often a hobby)
avid for something wanting to get something very much
battered old, used a lot, and not in very good condition
bruin a name for a brown bear (Ursus arctos), or for any bear, usually poetically or archaically. The word entered the English language via William Caxton’s 1485 translation of a Dutch version of the legend of Reynard the Fox. Bruin is the bear, named for his color
chagrin (formal) a feeling of being disappointed or annoyed
coin to invent a new word or phrase that other people then begin to use
cub a young bear
duffle coat a heavy coat made of wool that usually has a hood and is fastened with toggles
plush a type of silk or cotton cloth with a thick soft surface made of a mass of threads
resurgence the return and growth of an activity that had stopped
shear, sheared, shorn to cut the wool off a sheep
sidekick (informal) a person who helps another more important or more intelligent person
snout the long nose and area around the mouth of some types of animal
soot black powder that is produced when wood, coal, etc., is burnt
stole a piece of clothing consisting of a wide band of cloth or fur, worn by a woman around the shoulders; a similar piece of clothing worn by a priest
stowaway a person who hides in a ship or plane before it leaves, in order to travel without paying or being seen
taper to become gradually narrower; to make something become gradually narrower
tether to tie an animal to a post so that it cannot move very far
whimsical unusual and not serious in a way that is either amusing or annoying

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