The World’s Oldest Teddy Bear
Teddy bears have come a long way from the first renditions that looked like and in fact were modelled after real bears to the plush and cuddly ones that we know and love today. While they have changed in size, shape, plush-ness and personality, the first teddy bears have a certain charm and most certainly a history that make them something collectors all over the world clamour for.
The world’s oldest teddy bear was first introduced back in 1904. His name is Albert and he is a classic PB Rod Bear. The P stands for plush and the B for beweglich, a German word meaning movable. The rod part in the name is because Albert is fashioned from metal rods that hold him together. This, along with the fact that he is stuffed very strongly with kapok and woodwool made him much less cuddly than bears that came after and also very heavy, not a good combination when you are marketing to children.
Albert was made in gold mohair plush and has a unique head seam that runs across his head from ear to ear. The head was stuffed from the top, the seam being hand sewn afterwards. His nose is made from sealing wax and his eyes are boot buttons. He has five claws on his paws and his feet which is a characteristic of the PB Rod bear series, and his arms are curved and long so he can stand on all fours, sit down and even stand up. He is posable thanks to the rods, but this design was only used for a few years before better jointing techniques were invented. Albert is a fair size, being 11” when sitting and 16” at full length and although today he is quite threadbare he has a sweet little face and old world charm.
Of course, teddy bears today go through a much more rigorous safety process than those manufactured at the beginning of the century. We wouldn’t dream of giving a bear like Albert to a baby or young child today, and not just because he is old and worth a lot of money. Techniques today have created better fabrics, more cuddly bears and bears that come in all shapes and sizes, all with standards in place so the consumer knows they are made with safety in mind. But, a bear like Albert is a great collector item as well as being a wonderful conversation piece, as he is the world’s oldest known teddy bear and is a testament to how far the business of stuffed animals has come.