Sunday, April 25, 2010

Antique American Teddy Bear with Provenance

I've been collecting antique teddy bears for about 15 years, and I've just finally managed to acquire something I've longed for all that time: a bear with provenance. The greatest associated item one can hope for with an antique bear is a photo of the original owner holding said bear. The next best: a photo of the original owner, period. This find falls into a category of its own, as it includes a picture of the original owner, family photos, a handwritten geneaology, and a children's book, also from the original owner and inscribed with his name.

The bear is a 10 inch American ted, with a definitive date of 1917, given to his original owner when he was born. The bear has an inset fabric nose and glass bead eyes, and sports one of the greatest smiles I've ever seen on an antique teddy.

He was originally purchased for Daniel Munn Richmond, Junior, of Grundy Center, Iowa. Below is a school picture of Daniel, aged 6. Isn't he a cutie? And, if you look closely, you'll see an illustration of the Three Bears on the wall behind him...

Here's the inscription on the photo's back. It reads: "Daniel Munn Richmond, Junior  Age 6 years  May 1924   Grundy Center   Grundy Co.  Iowa"

A whole sheaf of genealogical treasures came with Daniel's bear, including photos of his family (that's mom and dad below), a handwritten family tree dating back to the 1770s, and a letter from his family members who sold the bear to my dealer (the same dealer who provided my Victorian doll trunks full of toys: she's really good at finding stuff like this):

The final item in the lot was this 1919 children's book, Doctor Rabbit and Grumpy Bear, inscribed with Daniel's name.

Daniel died in 1968 at the relatively young age of 51, but I hope he would be comforted to know his bear is being well-looked after.


  1. That's a fabulous bear and the boy is indeed a cutie. I can almost understand why the family might sell the bear, but the family photos and handwritten genealogy. What gives?

  2. I'm guessing the photos they sold with him were probably "extra" ones they didn't mind giving up, and the genealogy is a photocopy, so maybe that's not so bad as it sounds!

    But I'm always amazed and saddened by the things people seem not to want. I have a problem with old family photos that turn up in antique malls: I feel compelled to buy all that I see, so as to give them a "home" again. It's silly, I suppose: the people in the photos are long gone, they don't know their remaining relatives (or the family lawyer) dumped their stuff. But I just can't bear leaving it behind. My significant other visibly cringes when he sees a new pile of such photos at my house. "Oh no: not more dead people..." he'll say. I can't explain it, I just feel somehow responsible for "rescuing" as many of them as I can. I should post some of my "people" here one day...

  3. Tracy, this is the grandest smile ever!!! I love this bear. What a treasure with all the provenance, indeed a rare find. Your collections are quite amazing, I smile at all your postings.

  4. Thanks Lynn! I agree, best bear smile ever!

    See you Saturday at the antique show, hopefully (they're predicting rain again...)

  5. I know what you mean but I do it with a completely other type of item,marked up Barbies,even before I found a site called Save the Dolls,I would find these pen and permanent markered dolls lying together in bunches at Goodwill and knowing no one would rescue them I felt I had to for some reason.So I'd take them home ,get the marks off,dress them and give them to a nearby refugee center where they were finally appreciated.I never admitted it to anyone because it is so odd to think that somehow it matters whether a piece of plastic's next stop is another home or the city dump just because it looks like a person.