I always knew that the Teddy Bear was named after Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. I thought it must have been because he was cute and cuddly. It wasn’t…..he was bear hunting with some mates, was the last to kill a bear so his friends tied one up, hurt him and got Teddy to “finish him off” so he wasn’t left out. Teddy thought that was really cruel of his companions so ordered someone else to mercifully kill the bear. A reporter wrote about it in the newspaper and a cartoon accompanied the story. The first draft of the cartoon was drawn with a ficious bear, but later was redrawn to depict a cute, cuddly cub.
The cartoon and the story it told became popular and within a year, the cartoon bear became a toy for children called the teddy bear.
I’m so pleased we have the teddy bear. I know it was my favourite toy as a child. One I still have with the original name of Big Ted (thank you Playschool). May is another person who is very thankful for the teddy bear. When I say that she is an avid teddy bear collector, I mean AVID!!!!!!! With over 800 bears in her collection (most in storage) this woman knows a thing or two about bears.
In her home, there are bears pepping out around corners, bears sitting on seats, bears as magnets and bears dressed in their best. May also has a photo album categorising the bears that she has in storage. It kind of breaks my heart to think of all the bears waiting to be viewed, loved….. played with. It seems a shame that there couldn’t be a little bear for us all to visit. Maybe one of the trendy bear shops could be attached so patrons could “make their own bear” which seems to be the rage at the moment.
When May was 16 years old her mother gave away her only Teddy Bear. It was a Christening present that she received as a baby. Her mother thought May was too old for a teddy. May’s next bear was a gift from her then boyfriend. He wasn’t too happy about giving her a bear as a present but as long as it was something she wanted and would use, he was willing to spend the £10 on it. Limely (so called as it was lime green) has been well loved since.
In the 1980’s her collecting really took off. May loves to buy the Christmas bear, which every year is slightly different with it’s outfit. She also cherishes her two trips to Europe on the official “Bear tour” where like minded bear enthusiasts visit bear factories, artistic bear makers and shop for that elusive bear to compliment their collection. One visit saw the group visit the Teddy Bear Total Fair in Germany which had three floors of teddy bears. On the last night of the tour, everyone brings their prized purchase to share with the other bear collectors.
As you could imagine, the older the bear, the more value it holds. You can tell an old bear by it’s mohair fur and wood wool inside. So precious are these materials that May has to slip baby jump-suits onto the bears until she can take them to a restorer to mend. Dacron and Polyester are the norm for teddy’s now.
I love meeting someone who is so passionate about their collection. I also think the history is being nourished and kept alive for future generations. I hope there could be a place where May can share all her treasure as we all have a soft spot for the teddy.