History of the Teddy Bear Blog

via. Flickr: Olga Filonenko

Hold on to your stuffing because we’re talking all things teddy bear today! We’ve already told you about the five most collectible teddy bears in the world. And you already know how to clean a stuffie and store your stuffed animals. Heck, we’ve even written about the rarest stuffed animals you could ever possibly hope to get your plush loving paws on! Today, well that’s dedicated to getting to know the beloved, the cherished, the iconic — the teddy bear. We’re answering your questions about the highly collectible (and snuggle-able) classic teddy.

Are you or is someone you know an arctophile, a.k.a. teddy bear fanatic? Yep, the term arctophile comes from the Greek arktós for bear, and the suffix -phile, meaning lover, and we think it’s just perfect. Keep that little nugget of knowledge in your back pocket, it might just help you win Jeopardy one day!

Why is it called a teddy bear?

Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a Bear

Arctophiles have an unabiding love and enthusiasm for all things teddy bear….but how did the term teddy bear come about? Well, legend has it that although stuffed bears were developed at the same time by Russian-born Morris Michtom in the U.S. and in Germany by Richard Steiff, the stuffed bears are actually named after intrepid former American President, Theodore Roosevelt. Gather ’round, because this is going to be a great story! During a hunt, Roosevelt refused to shoot a black bear after it had been clubbed and tied to a tree. The press got ahold of the story and ran a political cartoon featuring the incident — and a cute bear — on November 16, 1902.

Michtom, who by this point had emigrated to the US and lived in Brooklyn, saw the political cartoon and was inspired. BAZINGA! Light bulb! Michtom crafted a small, plush bear to commemorate the event and sent it to President Roosevelt. The president bestowed his blessing and gave the craftsman permission to use his name. Subsequently, Michtom sold plush bears labeled “Teddy’s bears” in his shop. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Who made the original teddy bear?

the first teddy bear

Here’s where the origin story becomes a little….convoluted. In 1902, Michtom and his wife sold Teddy’s bear from their small Brooklyn shop — while at the same time across the pond in Germany, a plush toy company began making their own stuffed bears. These bears weren’t modeled after a U.S. president, but instead based on sketches by Richard Steiff. Contrary to Michtom’s creations, Steiff’s bears were made from mohair and had jointed limbs. Steiff’s products were sold large scale at a toy fair in Germany. One fateful day, an astute — and perhaps clairvoyant — U.S. toy company buyer placed a wholesale order for Steiff’s upscale bear. We don’t have a “teddy” in this race, so we’re not going to crown a true originator of teddy bears (but we believe it’s Michtom. Even if Steiff’s website claims they invented the bears first).

What is the best teddy bear brand?

Ok, so we’re going to need to put some guidelines on categorizing the absolute best bear maker of them all. We’re looking for longevity and quality of said bear, along with collectibility. Why collectability? Because clearly collecting is near and dear to our big orange hearts.

gund teddy bear

One can’t go wrong with purchasing a GUND bear, no sirree! GUND is a legacy brand that has been around for over one hundred years. This American brand is actually known for the quality of their products. Throughout the years GUND has had innovative designs and, by golly, if we don’t “Gotta Getta GUND!” Now led by third generation president Bruce Raiffe, GUND teddies and other plush products continue to be highly sought after. We may have had a GUND goody or two on our wishlist back in our formative years. Alright, we still have them on our wishlist!

ty beanie baby teddy bears

via Flickr: Dominique Godbout

Ahh, remember the simpler times? Before 1993 and the introduction of Ty Inc.’s Beanie Babies? The Beanie Babies fad is the gift that has just kept giving! These little soft toy creatures are “understuffed” with teeny tiny pellets, aka beans, giving the toy its name. Back in their heyday, Beanie Babies sold for a pretty penny and were even a point of contention in divorce proceedings. We have an affinity for the little guys, though. Especially the Princess Diana Beanie Baby. It’s regal and all, but the fact that one recently sold for $8,000 really warms our heart.

A steiff teddy bear

But when all is said, done, analyzed and cuddled, we have to go with the OG of teddy bear brands for our favorite. That’s right, the stalwart Steiff. They offer heirloom quality products that are regularly passed down from generation to generation — when they’re not being sold at auction for boatloads of money. If we had to “carry all our eggs” in one basket, it would be a moehair basket manufactured by hand in Germany by Steiff. We’d say they’re qualified to take our money.

What is the biggest teddy bear in the world?

the world's largest teddy bear

There’s lovable, there’s cuddly, there’s collectible, and then there is downright H-U-G-E. We profiled our favorite massive teddy bears before, but they’re just so big, they deserve another shout out. The most massive teddy bear in existence is named C.T. Dreams. He is so ginormous, he had to be displayed inside Exploration Place in Wichita Kansas, where he took up a respectable amount of real estate. At 55 feet and 4 inches long, C.T. Dreams isn’t for sale, but you can still add several pretty darn big loveable stuffed bears to your collection.

We hope this blog answers most of your burning teddy bear questions — and perhaps even reignites your passion for the stuffed ursine toys!

Written by Gemr
Gemr is the leading platform for collectors to discover, display, discuss, and buy & sell collectibles. Sometimes our team gets chummy and decides to write a blog together. Or maybe someone wants to keep their identity a secret. Pick which option you like best and we'll just say that's correct.