Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Antique Teddy Bears

I recently gave a presentation at my library on the history of teddy bears, accompanied by about 50 of my teds who assisted me during the show and tell portion. Here's a virtual tour of some of the highlights:

A 1908 German Steiff and 1904 American Ideal, wearing his original antique Roosevelt campaign pin:

A 1907 Laughing Roosevelt Bear, made by the Columbia Teddy Bear Company of Brooklyn, New York. His mouth opens, emulating Roosevelt's trademark toothy grin!

A couple of very rare American bears from around 1907-1908: on the left, a teddy made by the Miller Mfg. Co., advertised as an "antiseptic, hygenic" toy; and on the right, a cinnamon colored bear from Hahn & Amberg. Both bears are made of a wooly fabric and, unusually, stuffed with cork:

Dating from 1906, another American bear, made by Aetna:

A couple of rarities from 1907, these Teddy Girls were an attempt by doll manufacturers to cash in on the teddy bear fad:

These two odd American bears were a novelty in 1908. Known as Electric Eye Bears, they featured light bulb eyes which actually lit up! (The second bear has had his glass bulb eyes replaced with shoe buttons by a cautious mother long ago.)


Another novelty ted, this American Sleeping Eyed Bear dates from the 1920s. His celluloid eyes tip back into his head when he is laid down, making him appear to be asleep:

Also from the 1920s, these miniature bears made by Schuco of Germany hold many surprises. The largest, in the back, is actually a perfume bottle: his head lifts off to reveal a glass vial. The pink bear on the right houses a compact in her torso, complete with a tiny puff and traces of powder, while her head lifts off to reveal a lipstick tube. The crazy looking bear on the left is Schuco's famous two-faced Janus bear: his head can be turned completely around, where a different face can be found. The tiny bear in front is Schuco's smallest variety, the Piccolo, just 2 inches tall, with his original felt paws and feet.

These two twin British bears date from around WWI. They belonged to twin brothers who emigrated to America in the 1920s, and were clearly much loved. In fact, the different wear patterns on each bear show how the boys played with and used them. The bear on the left has a completely bare, broken down arm, from being regularly carried by that paw, but his torso stuffing is intact and sturdy, indicating he wasn't slept on nightly and thus squashed flat, like his brother on the right.

Two of my favorite antique English bears are these, a small, portly ted made by an unknown company in the 1920s, and his friend, a very sweet-faced Chiltern from the 1930s, with Chiltern's distinctive nose stitching:

This odd bear, which has squeakers in its large ears, dates to around 1916 and may have been made by the British Peacock Company:

The presentation featured a whole table full of "character" bears, antique teddies who have little monetary value due to their extreme wear and repair, but have limitless appeal due to the character imbued by such wear. Here are a couple of my favorites:

The last part of the presentation gave examples of ways to display bears. A big, 24 inch American bear, circa 1918, was the perfect size to wear my little brother's childhood sailor suit and ride an antique rocking horse:

Miniature bears, including a 1910 Steiff and a modern artist bear, were just the right size for this dollhouse furniture and grocery store:

And an antique dollhouse made the perfect display for two tiny Schuco bears:

An itty bitty bear, just 2 inches tall, and his dolly friend:


  1. I love the pictures of all your bears!
    Thanks for showing them to us!

  2. You're very welcome: glad you liked them!

  3. I want the horse! Tell that teddy bear "Giddyap Ride em Cowboy!!!"


  4. I too, have one of these, early, wooly fabric with cork stuffing, Teddy's. A very stiff, jointed bear with a tubby body. He was designed to stand with a wooden insert, within his foot pads. He too was created with a smile. He is an undocumented, Morris Michtom, Teddy. He too is in great condition because of the materials he was designed with. Glad to see your bears.

  5. It's so exciting to hear of someone with a similar bear to mine: I've not seen many like him, and he's been a puzzling ted. Glad you enjoyed my bears!

  6. So great to see your collection, such variety. I have a few mini steiff and schuco I use with dollhouses too

  7. What a great collection. Your bears have so much personality.

  8. Thank you! Glad you've enjoyed them. I especially like unusual bears, those with a lot of character.

  9. hello, I have a sleepy eyed bear like yours and was wondering what they are worth? Also is it called a Gund bear?

  10. Wish 8 could send a pic of my mini jointed teddy he has jom and something else on his foot maybe at the end it's 3 out of 36 with your lovely collection I thought you would be the one to know about this bear that's got a weird nose and he's missing a lot of hair

  11. What are the best vintage/antique teddy bears shows to go to today?

  12. ooh your ted babies are so deliteful. thanku for sharing with us all. Ive a shaved nose vintage with x3 claws, golden fur, with a grr when u give real hug & hump. Think he was my nans or pops early 1900.