If you go down to the woods today ….

THE OTHER WEEKEND I was left alone for a night whilst Sarah went to see her mother in Hampshire. Well, I thought I was alone – then, after a glass of wine or two, I realised I was not alone at all.  There were our teddy bears all keen to be spoken to.

We have two teddy bears in the conservatory, Horatio and Mortimer, and they guard the chairs from possession by our cat. Then there are three more teddy bears in the house – my bear who, believe it or not, is called Teddy and is as old as I am; and Sarah’s two teddy bears, one as old as her and one brought back from Hong Kong by her father returning from his Royal Naval duties in the  mid-1960s. These three teddy bears live together in the lounge/study but I decided that they could come and join Horatio, Mortimer and myself in the conservatory that evening.

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Horatio (admiral bear)

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Mortimer (barrister bear)

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Sarah’s ‘one-eyed’ white teddy (as old as her); my blue teddy (as old as me, complete with Brighton College school scarf);  Sarah’s brown musical teddy (from Hong Kong)

There are one or two other smaller teddy bears around the house but they are a little shy and difficult to talk to, so we’ll leave them alone.

The name teddy bear comes from ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, the President of the USA, 1901-1909. It came about when Roosevelt went on a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902 to which he had been invited by the Governor of the State, Andrew H. Longino.  After three days hunting most of the hunters had found a bear but  Roosevelt had not. Then Roosevelt’s attendants, led by Holt Collier, captured an elderly black bear which had been chased by the dogs. Collier tied the bear to a tree and called for Roosevelt to come and shoot it.

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Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (1858-1919)

When Roosevelt arrived at the scene he declined to shoot the bear as that would have been unsportsmanlike. However, the bear was greatly distressed having been attacked by the dogs and so Roosevelt ordered it to be put down. The incident was ‘recorded’ in a cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on the 6th November 1902 – it shows a small black bear held by an attendant with Roosevelt turning away refusing to have anything to do with the situation.  Later similar cartoons showed the bear even smaller and in much fear.

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The cartoon in The Washington Post

A Brooklyn shopkeeper, Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon and created a small soft bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign, ‘Teddy’s bear’. In fact, he had written to Roosevelt, sending him a bear, and the President had allowed him to use his name ‘Teddy’.  The toy bears were a great success and Michtom set up the Idea Novelty and Toy Co selling them.

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Early 1900s teddy bear in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington, manufactured by Benjamin Michtom, son of Morrris, and owned by Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, Kermit Roosevelt (no comments on that name please you muppets) 

Interestingly, about the same time, and unaware of Michtom and his creation, the German, Richard Steiff, nephew of Margarete Steiff whose company manufactured toy fabric animals (but not bears), hit on the idea of a  bear.  He exhibited a type ’55 PB’ at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903 and Herman Berg, a buyer for George Borgfeldt, New York, ordered 3000 of them for the USA.  Neither Michtom nor Steiff were aware of each others activities but soon the name ‘Teddy’ became linked to all such bears.

Replica of a Steiff 55 PB

Anyway, back to my teddy bears …….. Ah, I must go now as I see two gentlemen in white coats are knocking on my door.

 

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One thought on “If you go down to the woods today ….

  1. Thanks, Dudley

    I still have the bear which my mother made for me during the war out of a piece of someone’s old coat. It has lived in Malta, Turkey and in Canada.

    I hope that you and Sarah have a great Christmas.

    Best wishes,

    Maria

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