I Love You Teddy Bear and the Launch of the Steiff Bear

Was there ever a time in your life when you turned and whispered “I love you teddy bear” to your most cherished companion? The teddy bear that was with you, in your crib, from the day you were born? The one you came home and cried to when you fell off your bike and scraped your knee on the sidewalk? The one that kept you company when you were forced to remain indoors after your contracted chicken pox? If you never told your teddy bear how you felt about him or her, that would be a surprise. After all, teddy bears all over the world are used to hearing “I love you teddy bear,” at one time or another in their long lives.

Children everywhere (and even some adults), have been in love with their teddy bears ever since they were innocently first created as felt pincushions to be given to family and friends as gifts. What began as nothing more than a small elephant Margarete Steiff made in felt from a do-it-yourself pattern she found in a popular German magazine, turned into the most iconic plush toy of all time.

Maragarete was so pleased with the result of her first felt pincushion she decided to make others to give away. When children saw their mothers’ elephant pincushions, they claimed them for themselves, loving their size and softness. Margarete received so many requests for the pincushions, on December 29, 1889, she decided to start selling them. What had begun as merely a dressmaking business, quickly turned into the sale of soft toys (including lions, dogs, camels, monkeys, and donkeys), which eventually made up the majority of sales at Margarete’s company; 5,170 elephants were sold in 1886.

The company moved to larger premises in 1889 and went on to produce its first catalogue in 1892 which showcased its entire range of ‘toy’ animal products. In the same year, the company applied for a patent “for the making of animals and other figures to serve as playthings.” The launch of the first Steiff bear also took place in 1892 which was just one of many animals available for purchase in a set. The little bear was a hugely popular character and soon became the most important in the animal set.

The Steiff bear had begun its journey to what we would eventually see perfected and established as the world’s most popular toy.

And so too began the idea that one could be in love with their plush toys, specifically with the teddy bear. Saying “I love you teddy bear” to your favorite plush toy is no more unusual than saying it to the family dog or cat. Like with them, children and adults form close and passionate attachments to particular soft toys and as is the case, the “I love you teddy bear” sentiment really isn’t unusual at all.

Copyright Shelley Vassall, 2010.