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The birth of the Teddy Bear and the Early Bear Years

The birth of the Teddy Bear and the Early Bear Years The birth of the Teddy Bear and the Early Bear Years 

1877 to 1902 


In the German Town of Giengen a small mail order company is set up by  to make felt articles of clothing.


Margarete Steiff uses Scraps of Felt to make Small Elephant Shaped Pincushions these prove so popular with the children of the mothers that buy them that Margarete is encouraged to begin making other kinds of animal toys.


This year the very first Steiff catalogue is printed. Featuring Bears that roll along on metal wheels amongst other toys. 


The business is first registered under the name "Felt Toy Co."


Margarete's Nephew Richard Steiff shows interest in the company and decides to join and help develop the types of animals offered in the Steiff Soft 

1902 to 1903



Around this time Richard Steiff was on travels to the USA, the idea being to seek out new ideas for toys. Richard loved bears and was keen to see some in a travelling circus. Totally captivated by the bear's antics he sketches an idea of an upright toy bear and sends it to Margarete Steiff his aunt. 

Margarete who had contracted Polio as a child and was in a wheelchair had a hobby of making soft toys, The Earliest Original Steiff Creations were Felt Elephant Pincushions that had gained popularity as toys with the local children and her toy creations were so successful the hobby had grown into a business and in which she was inundated with orders.

12 November: 

Theodore Roosevelt leaves for Smedes Mississippi for a a four day bear hunt. He fails to bag a bear and is presented with a bear he refuses to shoot. 

16 November: 

Clifford J Berrymans Cartoon in the Washington Post shows Roosevelt refusing to shoot a  cute Bear Cub. The cartoon caption ‘Drawing the Line’ is a pun which refers to Roosevelt,s attempt to settle a boundary dispute between Louisiana and Mississippi which was actually the main reason for his visit to the Area. The popularity of the cartoon inspires Russian Émigré’s Morris and Rose Michtom to make‘Teddy’s Bear’ which appears in their shop window to sell in their Brooklyn Stationery and Novelty Toy store.



Steiff Sends a shipment of Soft toys to Paul Steiff in New York including the elusive Bar 55PB so far it is a flop. 


Bar 55PB is taken to Leipzig Toy Fair. Just as Richard Steiff is packing up the Bears, Hermann Berg of New York wholesalers George Borgfeldt and Co., orders 3,000. None of these bears are believed to have ever appeared on the open market since their original conception! Probably due to the fact that their string jointing made them not very robust to the rough and tumble of childhood games as none appear to have survived. 


Steiff registers a new jointed bear pattern. Richard Steiff continues to experiment with various forms of jointing. 


Henry Samuel Dean Establishes the now fabled Dean’s Rag Book Co. in London who have made some of the most endearing British Teddy Bears and Soft Toys.

Morris Michtom following the success of Teddy’s Bear establishes the Ideal Novelty & Toy Co.,becoming the first large US Teddy Bear Manufacturer with backing of wholesalers Butler’s Brothers. 

1903 to 1908

The now Famous Steiff Factory expands over three times during this period which becomes known as the ‘Bear Year’s’, or ‘Barenjahre’ in Germany

1904 to 1905



The last time that Bar 55PB appears for sale on the Steiff Company’s price list 


Steiff registers the now new and improved Bar 35PB with String jointing. Franz Steiff creates the ‘Button in Ear’ or ‘Knopf im ohr’ trademark and blank buttons are introduced. 


Steiff now introduce the more appealing ‘Elephant Button’ as an homage to the roots of the Company which began with Margarete Steiff’s handmade Felt Elephant Pincushions. 


Steiff patent a new improved more robust, double wired jointed design for their bears. The ‘Button in Ear’, ‘Knopf im Ohr’ trademark is registered which Steiff will aggressively protect. 

By the End of the year Steiffintroduces the latest incarnation Bar 28PB  to their ever expanding range. An impressive total of 12,000 bears were produced during one year. 



Steiff Registers  a new Bear, Bar35 PAB a momentous invention as this is the first Disc Jointed bearwhich was to become Standard Teddy Bear design.


Steiff’s ‘Button in Ear’ trademark officially confirmed. 


Still utilising various forms of jointing, Steiff patents the the Rod-Jointed Bear Bar 28 PB 


Bar 35 PB features in Steiffs catalogue and price list as ‘Barle’ with the Elephant button.

1905  to 1906 

In US newspapers the comical  ‘Roosevelt Bear’s’ poems conceived by Seymour Eaton appear and their popularity inspires a series of books. Hot on the Trail Steiff and US Teddy Bear manufacturers Kahn and Mossbacher and D.W. Shoyer and Co. create Dressed Bears in their image. 

1905 to 1909 

US President ‘Teddy’ Theodore Roosevelt still reigns in popularity and wins a second term of office. The Teddy Bear Craze reaches new heights. 

1906 to 1907

During this period a host of small manufacturers of Teddy Bears cash in on the Teddy Bear craze and set up business in the US, many bears are produced using German Mohair and Growlers. Famous Companies such as Aetna, Bruin Bears, Hecla, Columbia, Miller and Harman become well established although many other firms are shortlived. The massive competition spurs Steiff and other toy firms to branch out into more novelty bears and unusual designs 



The name ‘Teddy’s Bear’ is first used as a trade term in the US Toy Trade Journal ‘Playthings’ 


The continued success of the Steiff Toy Factory means it now becomes a private limited company 


The toy trade now use the expression ‘Teddy Bear’ instead of ‘Teddy’s Bear’ which appears in the‘Playthings’ journal. This new name for the Toy Bears sticks!


Charles Sackman and Martha Borchardt file patents for ‘Teddy-Bear’ designs in New York,



Seymour Eaton creator of the Roosevelt Bears uses the expression ‘Teddy Bear’ for the first time in the poem ‘Roosevelt Bears Abroad’, which was published in ‘The Sunday Oregonian’ newspaper, Portland, Oregon. 

Sara Tourney Lefferts publishes ‘Mr Cinnamon Bear’ in the US. 

This year the Steiff company produces a record 975,000 Teddy Bears

‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’, song is composed by John W Bratton

Thomas A Edison and Co make ‘The Teddy Bears’, the first moving picture featuringToy Teddy Bearsin the US 

The ‘Judge’ magazine feature the first Teddy Bear comic strip called ‘Little Johnny and the Bears’ 

1907 to 1911

During this time an amazing 400 songs were registered with the words ‘Teddy’ or ‘Teddy Bear’ in the title

1908 to 1909


The Neustadt Teddy Bear industry is launched making this area of Germany one of the key manufacturers of Teddy Bears after a US Businessman asks the Karl Hofmann company to supply teddies for the US market.

German Exporters Eisenmann suggests to English Firm J.K. Farnell that it begins making it’s own Teddy Bears which launches the UK Teddy Bear Industry 

The Steiff Catalogues first mention the use of the Tilt Growler in their Teddy Bears and Glass Eyesare first used in Steiff Bears for the British Market

William Taft is elected as US President an attempt to create mascots to rival the Teddy Bear are made ie. Billy Possum and Billiken 

The English Firm ‘Dean’s Rag Book & Co. produces Teddy Bears as part of a series of printed cloth toys ‘The Knockabout Toys’ Series and the ‘Teddy Bear Rag Book’

Steiff launch their first lawsuits against competitors Wilhelm Strunz and Gebruder Bing to protect their ‘button in Ear’ trademark



A Sad Day when Margarete Steiff dies aged only 61 on the 9th May her entire hometown of Giengen goes into mourning.

One of the first British Teddy Bear Stories ‘Teddy Bright Eyes’ is published

Steiff expand their range of mohair colours introducing the popular Golden Mohair to their existing range of Light Brown Mohair,  Dark Brown Mohair and White Mohair Bears. 

1909 to 1912

Heinrich Schreyer works for the Nuremberg Firm Gebruder Bing 

1910 to 1913

Warehouses are opened in New York, Sydney and several major European countries by Steiff who employ agents to run them 


The Steiff Titanic Mourning Bear is made following the TitanicDisaster Steiff introduces a specialBlack Mohair Bear for the British Market. This rare Steiff Bear has Boot Button eyes over orange felt 

Schreyer and Co. is established in Nuremberg by Heinrich Muller and Heinrich Schreyer 

The Red White and Blue Steiff Dolly Bear is created for the US Election



Neufang, near Sonneberg Germany, the first Hermann Bear is produced by Artur Adelheid and Max Hermann.

A new innovation as Steiff introduces Record Teddy who can be pulled along on his wheeled chassis. British Toy manufacturers such as the British United Toy Manufacturing Co. copy this popular Steiff Teddy Bear.