Sinterklaas and Gifts and Bears, Oh My!

By Zachary Rousseas

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, figures such as Saint Nicholas and the tradition of gift surround us. With this in mind, our object of the week is the first model Teddy Bear!

HHS Teddy Bear

This Teddy Bear was donated to Historic Huguenot Street by Kenneth Briggs in 2007 and was created in the early 20th century. The maker information on this Teddy Bear leads us to believe that this doll was most likely created by Steiff, a German based company that created the first Teddy Bear in 1902. According to the Steiff website, the old Germany Company rose to fame in the late 1800’s by producing felt animals, the most popular of which was the toy elephant. In 1902, the company created the first toy with jointed arms and legs, this plush toy would soon gain the world’s attention with the help of an American trader. As the story goes, a trader from the United States discovered a bear doll at a fair in Leipzig in central Germany in the early 20th century. The trader brought the bear to the United States and the bears gained huge amount of popularity. Soon after their success in they became lovingly known as Teddy Bears after the 26th President Theodore Roosevelt.

Teddy Bears may have gathered so much popularity because of their uniqueness amongst toys of their time. This bear had movable arms and legs, and were perfect for children to play with. This is near the opposite of the spectrum of the tin ostrich cart from an earlier blog post from the Lehmann Toy Company during the later 19th century in Brandenberg, Germany which was extremely fragile.

You can find this Teddy Bear along with other toys from our permanent collection on display in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center as part of our Gifts of the Past exhibit, open weekends through December 21, 10 am – 5 pm. This exhibit is free and open to the public.


On Display: Gifts of the Past

Gifts of the Past
A selection of children’s toys from the Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection
Exhibition by the Curatorial Department
November 22 – December 21, 2014

The Historic Huguenot Street Curatorial Department has developed a new exhibit in honor of the winter holiday season. Now on display in the DuBois Fort Visitor Center, Gifts of the Past presents a selection of historic children’s toys from the Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection.

Holiday gift giving has been a tradition for several centuries. Around the world, Christmas traditions are influenced by the legend of a gift giver rewarding children for their good behavior with toys and treats. “This exhibit brings together examples of classic children’s toys, both mass produced and hand-made, from the 19th and early-20th centuries,” explained Collections Manager Josephine Bloodgood. “We are very lucky to have such an extensive collection of these timeless objects preserved to share with the public.” Items on display include the first model Teddy Bear, a set of alphabet blocks, handmade wooden dominoes, and a bisque handmade doll.

HHS Teddy Bear

HHS Toy Soldiers

HHS Dominoes

This exhibit is a part of Historic Huguenot Street’s larger holiday programming season, featuring special events, interpretations, and décor. Additional objects from the Permanent Collection, including toys and holiday greeting cards, will be on display throughout the Deyo House, which guests can tour by purchasing a regular All-Day Pass.

Gifts of the Past is free and open to the public, now through Sunday, December 21, 2014. The DuBois Fort Visitor Center is open weekends, 10 am – 5 pm.