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.

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