The Teddy Bear Craze
The golden age of teddy bears lasted from 1903 right up to the start of World War II. Teddies were hugely popular, a craze on the scale of Beanie Babies or Pokemon, and everyone who was anyone had a teddy, especially upper-class ladies and their children, and as they were still relatively expensive toys they were treated with great care and pride.
Teddies could not yet be reliably and cheaply manufactured, and so were hand-made, artisan objects. German and American companies stepped teddy bear production into high gear, but the Germans’ long experience in toymaking meant that their bears were of much higher quality and for a lower price than the Americans could manage. German industry quickly came to dominate the worldwide teddy bear industry – but then, unfortunately, fell headlong into World War I.
The war allowed the American teddy industry to recover and grow to many times its previous size, as America was scarcely involved in the fighting – but, ironically, the Great Depression a few years later almost killed off the industry in America, at which point most teddy manufacturing moved back to Germany. The Germans were even more innovative with their bears this time, making teddies that could do all sorts of tricks, including dancing and playing little tunes.
The reason that World War II is the end of the golden age is that it ended teddy manufacturing pretty much everywhere, but also led to the development of technology that could be used to mass-manufacture teddies. When teddy bears came back after the war, they were no longer hand-made, but were mass-produced in automated factories. These bears were made from artificial materials so that they could be machine-washed, with plastic eyes and foam stuffing. Worse, manufacturing moved entirely to the East, where factories could churn them out at a fraction of the price. As teddy bears got cheaper, they became even more popular, but the quality of the teddy would never quite be the same again.
About the Author: John Gibb is the owner of