Teddies: triumph of a cuddly toy
With more than 2,500 bears, the collection of the Spielzeug Welten Museum Basel is the most comprehensive in the world. Many of these antique stuffed toys could tell fascinating stories about their past – famous owners or simply a turbulent bear-life. Here, in Basel, you can pursue your favourite pastimes without being disturbed. Whether joining in a motor race or organising a teddy bear’s picnic, many of the ingeniously arranged scenes can be put in motion at the push of a button.
A major part of the exhibition is devoted to teddy bears from the workshop of Margarete Steiff nowhere else can you find so many bears on show with the famous button in their ear. If you give credit to the legend, by the way, the American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt is responsible for the name “Teddy”. This honour was bestowed on it through a hunting incident in 1902. However, the fact that the cuddly toys became so popular with children so quickly after their invention can hardly be attributed to their famous name-giver. Rather, they were among the first soft playmates in the playroom and thus offered totally new possibilities.
Absolute rarities in the wide-ranging Basel collection are the “PB Models” (“P” = plush, “B” = moveable, beweglich), over a hundred years old. They were the first teddies in the world with moveable limbs, made by the Steiff company. Another sensation from the Steiff manufactory is the “PGB 35”: this splendid exhibit originating in 1904 is renowned as a milestone in teddy bear history. But visitors can also delight in the display of traditional brands such as the British purveyors to the Crown Chad Valley, the French producer F.A.D.A.P. and the America Gold Label BMC.
How Teddy got his name
Legend has it that the name “Teddy Bear” goes back to the former American President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt: after an unsuccessful hunt in Mississippi in 1902, one of Roosevelt’s attendants tracked down a young bear: he tied it to a tree – an easy target for the president. Roosevelt, however, thought this was unsportsmanlike and refused to kill the bear. So it happened that the president came home without a bag but with a good story. A cartoonist heard about the incident and drew a caricature for the Washington Post. The newspaper spread this episode throughout the land in no time, and soon enough “Teddy’s Bear” became teddy bear.
Selected Teddy bears