AMERICAN CULTURE Timeless teddy turns 100
Patriotic bears have proved popular at one place in the Southern Park Mall.
By KATIE-NELL SCANLON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- "Teddy" was born in 1902 in a shopkeeper's window and has won the hearts of children ever since.
What began as a cartoon in the Washington Post on Nov. 16, 1902, has grown into a lucrative business treasured by children and collectors worldwide.
Now celebrating its 100-year anniversary, the teddy bear has remained a timeless icon in the lives of children all over the world.
The cartoon drawn by Clifford Berryman, "Drawing the Line in Mississippi," was inspired by president Theodore Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a helpless baby bear during a hunting trip in Mississippi.
In the beginning
The first bear was manufactured by Morris and Rose Mitchum in Brooklyn, N.Y., to honor the president's actions. From the birth of this first bear, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. was founded in the United States and the teddy bear was on its way to stardom.
By 1906, the company was making a million bears a year, and the teddy craze was in full bloom.
Germany's Richard Steiff, unaware of Mitchum's creation, started his own version of the teddy bear, generating a great deal of interest by American buyers.
As popularity for the bear increased, manufacturers all over the world invested in the successful toy.
Although most did not survive, they aided in the changes the teddy bear has undergone in the last 100 years.
To keep up with the changing times, the teddy has been equipped with blinking eyes, movable parts and a variety of accessories.
The natural plush fibers once used by bear makers were replaced with synthetic, washable materials.
Affected by world events
The future of the teddy bear looked grim throughout the Great Depression and both World Wars. Some toy companies could not handle the cutbacks and the making of the teddy bear slowed to a crawl.
In 1969, actor Peter Bull revealed his love for the teddy bear, which helped bring the toy back to life. This opened the door to artists, writers, collectors and designers use of the bear to begin a new era.
In 1983, Teddy Bear and Friends magazine dedicated its pages to honoring the teddy bear. Collectors and antique buyers and sellers were using the teddy bear to promote an American pastime. Today, the teddy is no longer viewed as a toy but a gem in American culture.
Some collectors have noticed a fall in bear sales since Sept. 11.
Bean Town, in the Southern Park Mall in Boardman, carries several types of patriotic bears that have maintained sales throughout economic struggles.
The "American Bear" sells for $10 to $20, if you can find it before it's gone. Bean Town has been in business for three years and sells more than 100 different types of teddy bears and Beanie Babies.
Bean Town is among several places that sell teddy bears in the area.
Terrytown Antique and Gift Shoppe on Market Street carries a Madame Alexander Doll designed to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the teddy bear.
The 8-inch doll accompanied by a 3 1/2-inch teddy bear, named "Beary Bestfriends 100th Year Anniversary Edition," sells for $85.
Weathering the trends
The business of teddy bears is still booming, amid the trends that come and go in toy stores.
Bears from the first decades of the 20th century are still showing up at antique doll and toy auctions all across the country. Marianna Clay of Teddy Bear and Friends magazine said "today the current record price for one teddy bear, Teddy's Girl by Steiff, is $176,000" sold in 1994 at an auction house.
The magazine is sponsoring a list of events honoring the anniversary, such as the 13th Annual Teddy Bear of the Year Award in Illinois on Oct. 25 and a 13-week Web cast called "The Teddy Bear Hour with Teddy Bear and Friends" on VoiceAmerica.com.
The magazine also is planning a birthday bash at the Doll and Toy Museum of New York City. This event will take place in mid-November close to the date of the first teddy bear's birth.