Teddy bears date back to the early twentieth century, but the origin of the name is uncertain. The most popular story is that then-US President Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt refused to kill an injured bear on a bear-hunting trip, choosing to spare its life instead. This story was then picked up by the newspapers, especially cartoonists, leading one enterprising shop that sold toy bears to label them 'Teddy's Bears' in the window.
The original teddy bears are generally considered to come from Germany, where they were made by the Steiff company and exported to the US. Unlike previous attempts at toy bears, they were not fierce looking, with the makers instead going for a more appealing, although unrealistic, cute look. The bears were an immediate huge seller, with a craze that you could easily compare to the '90s Beanie Baby fever, and teddies today are still the biggest-selling toy animal by far.
As teddies were still being handmade rather than mass-produced, this led to a huge number of people becoming employed in bear-making almost overnight.
During the First World War, teddy bears from Germany were impossible to get, which led other countries to start producing them and building up their own unique teddy styles. The Second World War, however, led to a decline in teddy bear manufacture, as the resources simply couldn't be spared, and it wasn't until the '50s that they became popular again.
When they came back, though, it was with a vengeance, just like bananas and other things that had been unavailable during the war. Today, we are still in this age of teddy mass production.
Teddy bears have since become an enduring children's toy, as well as a popular theme of children's stories, such as Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh and the Teddy Bears' Picnic. Because of many adults' nostalgia for the pre-war hand-crafted bears, a whole industry of 'bear artists' making expensive, individual bears has sprung up alongside the cheap toys, and teddy bears remain popular as gifts as well.
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