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Dorchester Teddy Bear Museum

Friday, February 19th, 2010
Dorchester Teddy Bear Museum
Dorchester Teddy Bear Museum

From a very young age we have been fascinated with Teddy Bear and there cannot be many of us who did not receive one as a child, or have given one as a present. We name them, use them as comforters, and create characters that become great bedtime stories for young children. Iconic Teddy Bear characters include Paddington, the first to appear on TV, Winnie-the-Pooh made by J.K. Farnell and bought for Christopher Robin in 1921, Rupert Bear, and Pudsey Bear the ‘Children in Need’ mascot. You can now re-live an enchanting time from your own childhood, and give a real thrill to today’s children, by visiting the Dorchester Teddy Bear Museum.

The Teddy Bear Museum is easy to find and is located in Eastgate Centre, on the corner of High East Street and Salisbury Street just a short walk from the Dinosaur Museum. The Museum is set in the ‘house’ of Edward Bear a human sized teddy bear who, along with his family, is an avid bear collector.  The unique teddy bear Edwardian style house with life-sized bears is a must for both family and collector alike. The wonderful and varied display offers sheer enjoyment for the young, and a fascinating and nostalgic look at this much loved toy, for the not so young. It houses a large display of teddy bears from throughout the last century starting from the earliest examples right up to today’s TV favourites. The Dorset Teddy Bear Museum’s oldest bear is Michael dating from 1906 who is based on the original teddy bear design and pattern.

History of the Teddy Bear

Edward Bear waiting to meet you
Edward Bear waiting to meet you

The history of the teddy bear, you may be surprised to learn, dates back to only 1902, with 2002 marking the 100th birthday of the teddy bear.  It was invented almost simultaneously in the United States and Germany but it was the US that gave it its name.

It all began with President Theodore Roosevelt on a hunting trip in Mississippi, he refused to shoot a bear captured and tethered by his hunting party. The incident was immortalized in the Washington Post with a ‘Spare The Bear’ cartoon by Clifford Berryman. This cartoon is believed to have triggered the teddy bear craze in the U.S.

In Brooklyn, New York, shopkeepers Morris & Rose Michtom on seeing the cartoon made a plush toy bear which was placed in the window of their stationary shop calling it “Teddy’s Bear”. The Michtom’s formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation and became the first company to produce teddy bears.

At about the same time in Germany, Richard Steiff, the nephew of Margarete Steiff, designed a teddy bear based on the bears he had seen at the local zoo. The Steiff Company of Giengen produced its first jointed stuffed bears and the Steiff teddy bears were put on show at the 1903 Leipzig Fair – an American buyer saw them and ordered 3,000 for shipment to the US. Between 1903 and the First World War the Steiff Company sold literally millions of bears, with their trademark button in the left ear, to the United States, Germany and Britain, as the teddy bear became the latest toy craze.

Bear Collection
Bear Collection

The Dorset Teddy Bear Museum houses examples from the earliest antique teddy bears right up to today’s TV favourites and they are all waiting to greet you in this enchanting Teddy Bear Museum. School children will enjoy the experience – my son visited for the second time at the beginning of February and loved exploring the rooms and managed to find Edward Bear, Sleepy Granddad and mummy bear picking flowers. He still cherishes ‘Milo the Milkman’ teddy bear bought in the gift shop on his first outing to the museum.

Visiting the Teddy Bear Museum

The Teddy Bear Museum is open all year round, Monday to Sunday, April to October 10.00am to 5.00pm and in November to March 10.00am to 4:30pm. Closed 25th and 26th December. Admission is £5.75 per adult, Children £4.00 (under 4 years free), Seniors/Students £5.00 and a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) is £18.00. Please contact the museum for special rates for groups and schools.

On the Teddy Bear Museum website you can print a voucher entitling you to a 50p discount on entry tickets and also sign up for their regular newsletter giving details on special events.

The museum’s charming period teddy bear shop is probably the best in the south! The museum’s shop stocks top brands: Steiff Teddy Bear, Merrythought, Dean’s, Gund and many more, to tempt you and is ideal for Teddy bear collectors and all those who love teddy bears. You can also purchase these teddy bears via the museums’ online shop.

The Teddy Bear Museum is a great place for both young and old and should be on your list of things to do when you visit the town.

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