The cute and cuddly teddy bear is more than a hundred years old. In fact, it predates even World War I and can trace its origins back to one of the greatest US presidents. While, in its hundred-plus year history, the humble teddy has conquered the World from Europe to America to Japan and back. And, even though our once simpler lives are now choking in so much technology, the plain old teddy seems more popular than ever — just Google him! Here are some more amazing facts about this childhood classic and 20th century icon.
1. Bears first appeared on the literary scene in the fairy tale ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ written by Robert Southey in 1834.
2. The first stuffed bear soft toy showed signs of appearing on the scene when Margarete Steiff registered patents for 23 of her soft toy designs, including a dancing bear and a bear handler with a brown bear in 1899.
3. History is made — a Brooklyn shopkeeper, Morris Michtom sells the world’s first ‘Teddy’s Bear’ in his shop in November 1902.
4. In March 1903, as many as 3000 stuffed bear toys are shipped across to America by the Steiff Company in Germany.
5. Bear toys were called ‘Bruins’ in those days. The first advertisement for Bruins appeared in the American toy trade magazine Playthings in May 1906.
6. That same year in November, the words ‘Teddy Bear’ featured for the very first time in another advertisement in Playthings by American manufacturer E.J. Horsman.
7. “Teddy Bear” was one of the first illustrated books based on these popular soft toys, written by Alice Scott.
8. In 1907, music history was made when music of the famous song, The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, was penned 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.
9. In 1908, the J.K. Farnell company started manufacturing the first British teddies. The firm was originally founded in London’s Notting Hill as a silk merchant and first produced tea cossies and pin cushions. But, it is believed that their Alpha bear of 1925 was the inspiration the creation of Winnie the Pooh.
10. In 1909, the first animated teddy cartoon “Little Johnny and the Teddy Bears” appeared in USA.
11. In 1912, as the world received news of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage with shocked disbelief, 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.
12. In 1919, the adorable teddy bear was airborne on their first non-stop transatlantic flight! Aviation pioneers, Alcock and Brown, took teddy mascots with them on this record-breaking flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland in a modified World War I Vickers Vimy bomber.
13. The teddy bear entered thousands of homes every morning for Britons when the first British comic-strip teddy character, Bobby Bear, was published in the London-based Daily Herald newspaper.
14. The following year, in 1920, the first Rupert Bear picture story, Little Lost Bear, written and illustrated by Mary Tourtel, found its way in the UK newspaper, The Daily Express.
15. In 1924, animation movie giant Walt Disney produced the first colour animation film with a teddy bear theme Alice and the Three Bears.
16. One of 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.
17. In 1944, even as forest fires caused havoc across the USA, Smokey Bear was adopted as the mascot of the United States Forest Fire Prevention Campaign.
18. 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. So much so that Sooty is now the longest running children’s television show in the UK and turned 60 in 2008. Devised by Harry Corbett, father handed the job of puppeteer over to son Matthew in 1976. Matthew retired in the late nineties with Sooty’s popularity undiminished.
19. 1953 was the Golden Jubilee of Steiff’s first soft toy bear. It was celebrated with a new style bear, ‘a comical young bear cub’, called Jackie Baby.
20. A common dilemma was solved when Wendy Boston, Welsh toy maker, produced the first truly washable soft toy bear in 1954.
21. 1958 saw another immensely loved and popular bear, Paddington Bear, appear on the scene for the first time. The first Paddington story, A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond was published this year.
22. In a significant development, Walt Disney acquired the rights to Winnie-the-Pooh in 1959.
23. Colonel Bob Henderson launches The Teddy Bear Club in 1962.
24. The first animated film on Winnie-the-Pooh is produced by Walt Disney in 1975. It instantly became a classic.
25. In 1979, the Marquis of Bath organised the Great Teddy Bear Rally at Longleat.
26. In a departure from its usual items, auction house Christie’s of London held the first ever teddy bear-only auction in 1985.
27. In 1988, Gyles and Michele Brandreth set up The Teddy Bear Museum in William Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon.
28. The next year, in 1989, the first British Teddy Bear Festival was held in London.
29. That same year, in 1989, Happy Anniversary, a 1926 vintage mohair Steiff bear, was sold at an auction in London for a whopping £55,000 to American Paul Volpp as a 42nd wedding anniversary gift for his wife, Rosemary.
30. In 1990, Steiff crossed over to the UK with the first Steiff UK Limited Edition teddies.
31. The teddy bear had crossed continents and endeared himself to all. 1994 saw Teddy Girl, a 1904 cinnamon Steiff bear that was formerly in the possession of Colonel Bob Henderson, being sold at an auction in London for a staggering £110,000 to Yoshihiro Sekiguchi. Sekiguchi went on to establish the Teddy Bear Museum in Izu, Japan.
32. In 1996, Yoshihiro Sekiguchi of the Izu Teddy Bear Museum bought Teddy Edward, the world’s most travelled bear, at an auction by for…£34,500.
33. You thought there were only average size teddy bears? Well, Guinness (8.5 mm tall), made by Lynn Lumb of Halifax, England, entered the hallowed portals of The Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s smallest teddy bear.
Never thought the humble teddy packed such a long history, eh?