Century of teddy bears celebrated


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – In honor of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the teddy bear, over 300 antique and vintage bears will be exhibited in Atlantique City, coming to the Atlantic City Convention Center on March 23 and 24.

Hunting incident. It was in 1902 that Teddy Roosevelt and the famous hunting incident took place in Mississippi. The president’s refusal to shoot a defenseless bear cub, which was publicly satirized by prominent cartoonist Clifford Berryman, was, unknowingly at the time, a stroke of political genius. Adopted as the mascot for the 1904 presidential campaign, the association between Roosevelt and the teddy bear would impact lives and shape the profits of toy companies for generations to come.

Barbara Lauver, a well known authority on teddy bears, is the keeper in charge of the special exhibition. “This 100th anniversary is being celebrated around the world,” said Lauver. “I am planning on bringing my most precious bears including the earliest surviving Steiff which has metal rods connecting the joints.

But there was another, an even earlier bear made by the company that was held together with heavy knotted string. The bears were labeled Bear 55PB – the 55 indicating its size, 55 centimeters or 21.5 inches. The P stands for plush and the B for “beweglich,” the German word for joined with string.

Immediately following the Roosevelt incident, string teddies were produced and shipped to the Steiff showroom in New York City but the public found them too expensive and bulky.

Bruins made from the turn of the century through the 1950s will be on display. “There will also be a case of new bears that have historical significance,” said Lauver. “For example, the bear that was used by the U.S. Postal Service in their commemorative stamp series, the Roosevelt Bears, Teddy B and Teddy G, and the Berryman bear by artist R. John Wright.” In the Teddy Bear Jamboree she plans to include some special one-of-a kind bears that have never been on public display.

Teddy experts. Gunther Pfeiffer, the only evaluation expert recognized by the Steiff Company, will travel from Germany to introduce his new book 100 Years of Steiff Teddy Bears in the American market. In addition, the author will provide complimentary identifications and appraisals of bears brought to the show.

Also appearing at Atlantique City are names that are well-known to bear enthusiasts including author Dee Hockenbery, dealer Barbara Baldwin, Antiques Road Show expert Richard Wright and Thomas Lutz of Germany.

“In the past 20 years, values of early bears have risen tremendously. We’re going to present a priceless array of the earliest, rarest and finest examples,” said Wright.

Bear beginnings. Toy bears were being produced during the 19th century in Europe, many of them mechanical in nature, similar in appearance to the trained bears that were seen in traveling circuses and carnivals. Visits to the zoo were popular during the Victorian era, and a well-to-do child’s nursery was apt to be populated by wild animal toys, as well as colorful children’s books and blocks depicting exotic animals.

Therefore, bears were already a familiar sight when soft-hearted Teddy Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a bear cub assured them of their lasting place in history. It is generally accepted that production began at about the same time in the United States by Ideal and in Germany by Steiff.

Initially, the term “teddy” was not used in Europe. It was simply a stuffed bear, a “petz.” But on the other side of the Atlantic, the Michtoms, owners of a Brooklyn candy store, were quick to name their new stuffed bear in honor of the famous Mississippi hunting incident. That name soon became synonymous with toy bears.

Ray Mansfield host of NBC’s Let’s Talk Antiques, Kyle Husfloen, editor of the Antique Trader Price Guide and Ellen Schroy, editor of Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide will provide free appraisals of any antiques on Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Going to the show. Atlantique City features dealers from 43 states plus Canada, Great Britain, Europe and the Orient.

There are over 14,000 parking spaces within an easy ten-minute walk or ride.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 23 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 24 in the Convention Center at the foot of the Atlantic City Expressway. To order early entry discount tickets or for a free courtesy pack, hotel, motel and airline discounts, visit www.atlantiquecity.com or call 1-800-526-2724.

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