A POTTED HISTORY OF THE BEAR

 

In Switzerland and France the proof of bear worship can still be found. In Berne (meaning Bear), the capital of Switzerland, there are still bear pits where you can feed carrots to the bears. Many bones and skulls of cave bears have been found at a site in Drachenloch in Switzerland. Why Neanderthal man began hunting the Cave Bear is not certain. It was a formidable animal, standing more than eight feet tall when reared in anger, and must have been a dangerous foe.

Teddy bear collectors are known as arctophiles from the Greek words ‘arcto’ (bear) and ‘philos’ (lover).

Theodore Roosevelt, the American President, was responsible for the first “teddy bear”. On one of his Mississippi hunting trips it is believed that his assistants cornered a black bear after a long chase and tied it to a willow tree. Roosevelt refused to shoot it saying the immortal words, “Spare the bear! I will not shoot a tethered animal.” Clifford Berryman of the Washington Post drew a cartoon of the scene and eventually the cartoon bear became smaller and cuter. In 1903, a new stuffed toy was developed by Morris and Rose Michtom, owners of a store in Brooklyn and when they put it in their shop window they used a sign saying “Teddy’s bear” and it became a great success. Almost simultaneously in Germany Margarete Steiff, a disabled seamstress, was making stuffed teddies and selling them to the USA. The Steiff company went on to sell millions of teddies before the First World War in Germany, as well as the UK and USA.

A family business called Merrythought in the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge in Shropshire, England, have been making teddies since 1930. In the 1980’s they made showpiece teddies, some 6ft. tall for Hamleys and Harrods. In 1992 they won the TOBY (Teddy Bear of the Year Award) for Master Mischief designed by Jacqueline Revitt. In 2013 they produced a special edition bear to mark the arrival of Prince George of Cambridge.

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