The Teddy Bear: A Global Friendship Sensation

When I was born, I received two teddy bears as welcome-to-the-world gifts.

One came from my dad, and one from my grandfather

The two bears look identical overall, except one is relatively big with dark brown fur, while the other is small with creamy white fur. 

They have the same tiny black beads for eyes and the same little black plastic nose. 

I assume they both came from the selection of teddy bears at the hospital gift shop, as neither of the two men who gave them to me had ever been known to go to a mall.

(This was the 80s, so yes, people did go to malls back then).

I don’t remember playing with them much as a child. 

They adorned my bed for a time and were always included in any audience of stuffies I assembled when putting on a performance or teaching a pretend class in my bedroom. 

But I didn’t have any special or extreme attachments to them. 

However, I realized the other day I still have both of them 

I didn’t keep any other stuffed animals from my childhood. 

I have little knick-knacks and a few favorite toys I have saved in a tote bin through the years, but no stuffed animals besides the two teddy bears. 

The realization got me wondering:

Why have I kept them all this time if, as a child, they seemingly weren’t that important to me?

What is it with teddy bears that I (and most humans) are so attached to? 

It likely has to do with the sentiment of them coming from my dad and grandpa (although I’m not even sure who gave me which one), but there is something else about them, too. 

When I look at these two bears, they just feel friendly and comforting, like I can rely on them. 

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That’s the thing about teddy bears, I guess. 

They are reliable friends and lovable companions who always love you back and exude this “I’ll never leave you” quality. 

That’s probably why I never even considered getting rid of them. 

All this got me wondering even further about teddy bears.

They sure have seemed to steal the hearts of humans worldwide, so I decided to find out their story. 

Also, September 9 is National Teddy Bear Day, so take a moment to hug your cuddly friend (if you have one, but seriously, who doesn’t?) and thank them for always being there.

And enjoy the following information about teddy bears, including:

  • Who invented teddy bears?
  • How do you make a teddy bear?
  • Some of the most famous teddy bears

Where did the teddy bear come from?

The Teddy Bear has a surprising origin story deeply rooted in American history. 

The tale goes that during a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902, the 26th President of the United States, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, declined to shoot a black bear tied to a tree, considering it unsportsmanlike. 

His compassion captivated the nation’s imagination and was immortalized in a political cartoon. 

A Brooklyn shopkeeper, Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon and then saw an opportunity. 

He and his wife, Rose, created a stuffed bear cub and put it in their shop window with a sign that read “Teddy’s Bear.” 

Unexpectedly, the stuffed creature became a commercial hit.

So, teddy bears were named after President “Teddy” Roosevelt. 

I thought for sure the teddy bear was some ingenious foreign creation that made its way to America on the Mayflower or something. 

I never expected it to be such a (relatively) recent invention inspired by an American President!

It turns out that around that same time, a German toy company run by Richard Steiff also produced a stuffed bear.

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This version was more toy-like than the American bear and was the classic teddy bear we all think of today. 

And they adopted the name “teddy bear” after the President’s heartwarming story as well.

Steiff bears, recognized for their quality craftsmanship, garnered international attention and added a European dimension to the teddy bear story.

How to make a Teddy Bear

In today’s world, making your own teddy bear is incredibly easy.

This is partly due to the invention of retail shops that specialize in helping customers create their own stuffed animals, such as Build-A-Bear Workshop. 

Build-A-Bear Workshop was founded in 1997 by Maxine Clark in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and is a unique and interactive concept.

It provides a participatory experience, letting customers go through an assembly line-style process where they choose a stuffed animal “skin.”

Then they stuff it with a machine and add a fabric heart. 

At Build-A-Bear, you can further personalize a stuffy by giving it a name, creating a birth certificate, and choosing outfits and accessories. 

But if you want to make your own bear from scratch, that’s entirely possible with a little effort and some craft supplies. 

You simply sketch the design of your teddy bear on paper, keeping in mind the proportions and features you want. 

Once satisfied, transfer this design onto the fabric you want for the bear’s body, typically fur, fleece, or cotton.

You will also need stuffing material like polyester fiberfill and accessories like buttons for eyes.

Cut out the fabric pieces that will form the bear’s body, arms, legs, and other features using your pattern.

Stitch the fabric pieces together inside out, leaving spaces for stuffing. 

Don’t forget to sew on the bear’s facial features, like eyes and nose, before stuffing!

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Use the polyester fiberfill to stuff the teddy bear, making sure to fill it uniformly but not too tightly so it will still be huggable!

Close up the spaces you left for stuffing, stitch accessories like bows or clothing onto the bear, and voilà!

You just made your own best friend. 

Some famous teddy bears you might know

Over the years, teddy bears have not only provided comfort and companionship, but some have also risen to stardom, becoming cultural icons in their own right.

One of the most iconic is Winnie-the-Pooh, created by A.A. Milne and inspired by a real bear at the London Zoo.

Pooh Bear resides in the fictional Hundred Acre Wood and has been the subject of countless stories, cartoons, and merchandise.

Then there’s Paddington Bear.

He originated from “darkest Peru” and landed in London’s Paddington Station.

Created by Michael Bond, Paddington loves marmalade sandwiches and has a penchant for finding himself in quirky situations.

A more recent addition to the famous teddy roster is Ted, a character from Seth MacFarlane’s adult comedy films. 

Ted is a teddy bear brought to life by a childhood wish and engages in anything but child-friendly antics.

More than a toy

They are certainly a cornerstone of childhood but are also much more than that. 

They are tokens of affection and even cultural landmarks. 

Throughout history, they have evolved from a symbol of American presidential goodwill to a universal representation of love and care.

With their rich history and universal appeal, teddy bears will likely continue being cherished across generations and cultures. 

Do you still have your childhood teddy bear?

Who is your favorite famous teddy bear?

Tell us all about it in the comment section! 

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