From the 1900s to this day, the inquiry about who actually fashioned the first teddy bear is still debated. In any case, the teddy bear remains a national obsession. In 1903, Steiff created 12,000 bears. Teddy manufacturers sprang up everywhere. Textbook author Seymour Eaton, under the pseudonym Paul Piper, wrote a humorous poem called "The Roosevelt Bears" that appeared each week in newspapers around the country and followed the frolics of "Teddy-B and Teddy-G.
Eaton also published a series of books about the bears. "Teddy bears are all the rage," read an ad in the 1908 Sears, Roebuck catalog. Bears of all kinds--plaid bears, fuzzy bears, Viking bears--perch on every available surface. How about a bear with a hood with curlers on it and fuzzy slippers and a robe? It's there too.
And today Vermont Teddy Bears Most of Vermont Teddy's customers are men sending Bear-Grams. Customized Bear-Grams can cost up to $300 apiece. Although the company specializes in lightheartedness--it ships each bear in a container complete with airholes and a delicious candy treat, in case the bear gets hungry on the trip--it's a full-size business.
Real bears have to contend with hunters and habitat loss, but there's no sign teddy bears will ever be endangered. If you look through popular magazines, there's always an ad for some limited edition, and you go into a gift shop and there are teddy bear aprons and teddy bear mugs and teddy bear this and teddy bear that.
The Teddy Bear Museum in Naples, Florida--one of the first such museums in America--displays about five thousand teddies from all over the world. Some are holding their own teddy bears; others dress in bear jewelry and carry bear handbags. An enchanting experience for children of any age, this distinctive museum showcases bears in all shapes and sizes including one-of-a-kind teddy bears, limited editions, antique bears, and unique moving displays.
In 1997, the Huis Ten Bosch resort in Nagasaki, Japan, opened the Teddy Bear Kingdom--a 1,300-square-foot replica of a medieval castle with 1,500 vintage and new bears. On April 24, 2001, J.S. International chairman Jesse Kim, who paid $193,477 for a one-of-a-kind contemporary Steiff bear at a charity auction, opened the JeJu Teddy Bear Museum in Korea. The Jeju Teddy Bear Museum opened specially for the European collectors and is more exhilarating than ever with special "Teddy Bear" entertainment.
Since the late 1970s, a generation of "bear artists" has taken tired old teddy to a new level. Art bears are nearly always hand-sewn, one-of-a-kind or limited-edition pieces. They're as diverse and creative as the artists themselves--huggable, droopy-limbed bears, minutely detailed mohair miniatures no bigger than thimbles, bears dressed as hobos, angel bears, clown bears, biblical bears, inquiring bears, shy bears, and bears of every personality, shape and expression.
How has a solitary toy escaped the limitations of age, gender, nationality, culture and faith for over a hundred years? What makes people adhere to their teddy bears, loved to within an inch of their fuzz, for lifetimes? The teddy bear began as a child's plaything, something to soothe and please the young. That bear became a confidante, our best friend, the buddy who kept us secure and protected during the tribulations of youth.