"The Bear Made Me Buy It," confesses Joyce Gerardi Rinehart in
her book of the same title. Whether it's being lured by their
endearing faces, or intrigued by a compelling “Hugs for Sale”
advertisement, most readers have been mesmerized to buy "one more
Unofficially a Clifford Berryman 1902 political
cartoon started the mass promotion that propelled the teddy bear
into a national obsession. However, historian and author, Patricia
N. Schoonmaker in A Collector's History of the Teddy Bear concludes, "The success of the teddy bear was not so much due to
President Roosevelt, but to the uniqueness of the toy attributed to
soft and silky mohair and fully, jointed appendages."
From 1902 until 1906, the success of the teddy bear was mainly
promoted by word of mouth or through further Berryman cartoons where
the itty bitty bruin had become his trademark. The American demand
for teddy bears exploded into the “bear craze” with the advent of ad-bear-tising in 1906.
This is Bruin’s Day –The first known
advertisement for jointed plush bears
in a national American
Magazine – April 1906.
of Playthings Magazine/Linda Mullins]
Linda Mullins, internationally renowned historian and author reports
in her book, American Teddy Bear Encyclopedia, “Playthingsmagazine
(April, 1906) published the first known national advertisement for
American teddy bears.” Baker and Bigler Co. (New York) presented an
ad, picturing a jointed teddy bear. The headline read “This is
Teddy’s Bears Ad – E. I. Horsman advertisement ran in
Playthings Magazine, September 1906 issue. The first time
plush bears were called Teddy’s Bears. [Courtesy
of Playthings Magazine/Linda Mullins]
Soon other magazines began to carry teddy bear ads. Mullins noted:
"Many of the American manufacturers would state that the quality of
their bears were equal to the imported, referring to their German
counterparts." Comparison advertising was alive and well.
Schoonmaker and Mullins books display an array of ad-bear-tisements
during the years 1906-1908. The ads promoted talking, growling,
sleeping, tumbling, mechanical, performing, buttons in the ear,
harmless play fellows and bears on wheels for purchase.
The Miller MFG. Co. marketed an "Antiseptic Bear” which insured that
bear was of the utmost cleanliness and "carefully inspected" prior
Sears and Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward catalogues were big into
bears. An ad in Montgomery Ward's catalogue displayed an "Electro
Teddy Bear” that had electric bullets for eyes that shine, sparkle
or grow as dim as you want them too." I wonder if the children might
have found these bruins to be "beary scary".
Welcome Home Soldier! The company
celebrates the end of the World
(1945) and looks forward to resuming
its post war program. [Courtesy of GUND]
Author-journalist, Marty Crisp's Teddy Bears in Advertising Art is an excellent resource as to how teddy bears have been utilized in
promoting other products. Crisp states that “Teddy bears in all of
their glory are allies and champions, promoters of traits that
people all over the world respect.”
Thumbing through the pages of Crisp’s book you will find a variety
of sales-bears for aluminum products, batteries, blankets, blue
jeans, cameras and film, cheese, cigars, computers, corsets,
diapers, disinfectant, furs, gloves, hair care products, medicine,
motor oil, pianos, railroads, records, restaurants, sand paper, shoe
polish, sports clothes, tailors thread, tools, toothpaste,
underwear, vacuum cleaners, varnish and video stores."
Ad in The
Ladies Home Journal, 1907
Author Richard Reed further describes
and displays advertising bears in his book, Bears and Dolls in
Advertising. Fast food bears, candy cubs, sports bears, they are all
there in bright photos and trivia packed chapters. The A & W Root
Beer Bear, Coca Cola Polar Bear, Snuggle Bear, Hershey's
Chocolate-colored Bear, Harley-Davidson's Motorhead are but a few of
the collectible cuties.
In Linda Mullins’ American Teddy Bear Encyclopedia, she states, “In
the long run, some of the strongest bear advertising campaigns
included food and beverage products; polar bears would quickly bring
up the thought of refreshing, cooled delights, while cuddly teddy
bears were a sure fire visual image of sweet.
Why do advertisers anthropomorphize teddy bears
and other plush playthings as Spokes-toys and do they really help to
sell the product?
they do not incur huge salaries, are not likely to be embroiled
in a nasty public scandal and do not require replacements when
one quits or passes on.
It revolves around
the cute factor and positive childhood memories of a furry
friends playthings being our confidents, dependable,
trustworthy and having the ability to make us feel good.
Though babies fall
into the cute factor, they require time-outs, thus increasing
costs for photo shots.
Plush toys cross
over gender and social demographics, thus reaching a greater
There is a carry
over value as when one seeks the Snuggles bear they think of the
product, or Smokey Bear, the message.
Undoubtedly, as long as there is advertising
there will be employment opportunities for plush stuff. Bears are prolific in advertising around the world. Germany was
advertising toy bears prior to America's 1906 advertisement. The
Gebruder Sussenguth toy company displayed a stuffed bear toy in an
1894 catalogue and an 1897 Steiff catalogue showcased Bear Skittles
and "Roly-poly" toy bears. A most informative German website,
“Teddies World”, has an outstanding display of
international teddy bear ads. The creator of the website, Heinz
Kraemer, has taken the collection and preservation of teddy bear
advertising into cyberspace.
WANTED: a spokesperson
who is warm, friendly, loved by the general public, and
When the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) Forest Service organized the Cooperative Forest Fire
Prevention campaign, while joining with the Wartime Advertising
Council, they sought out a representative symbol. Perhaps, they
could have developed an ad like the one in Marty Crisp's
introduction in her book... Do you think "Smokey Bear", perhaps the
world's best known "spokes-bear" might have applied? Smokey was
created in 1942. In the 1950's, the Ideal Toy Company produced the
original plush bear with his familiar ranger hat, belt and badge. In
later years, R. Daken and Co. and the Knickerbocker Co. further
immortalized the famed ad-bear-tising bruin.
In 2006, Smokey Bear celebrated his 64th birthday. No retirement for
Smokey, as he continues to remind each generation that "Only you can
prevent forest fires". Smokey Bear has generated countless numbers
of advertising products promoting, "Where There's Smoke, There's
Fire". Where there is a need for fire education and
prevention...there's Smokey Bear.
Maxine Clark, award-winning retail veteran and founder/CEO of the
global conglomerate Build-A-Bear Workshop®, and John Sortino,
entrepreneur extraordinaire and founder of The Vermont Teddy Bear
Company have written "how to" books which share their secrets of
success. They have each included tips for successful advertising.
Readers who are involved in ad-bear-tising their products might wish
to purchase a copy of Maxine Clark's The Bear Necessities of
Business...Building a Company with Heart and John Sortino’s The
Complete Idiot's Guide to...."Being a Successful Entrepreneur. These
how-to books are rich resources written by two time-tested,
proven-successful business entrepreneurs.
As teddy bear aficionados commemorate “A Century of American
Ad-bear-tising”, we have much appreciation for the authors mentioned
in this article. A round of a-paws for Joyce Gerardi Rinehart,
Patricia N. Schoonmaker, Linda Mullins, Marti Crisp and Richard
Reed. They deserve appreciation for preserving an important element
in teddy bear history, ad-bear-tising. As one reviews the
advertisements on the pages of the books, it is a historical walk
through 100 years of teddy bear manufacturers and designs.
We should also thank the successful business entrepreneurs, Maxine
Clark and John Sortino, who share their business savvy so that many
more successful ads will have future bear buyers saying...The Bear
Made Me Buy It.
About the Author:
Natalie Hartman Whitnack is a self-diagnosed and family supported,
arctophyle (bear lover). Having received her first bear, a panda
named Mickey, at the imaginative age of seven; she continues her
life as a fancier of the power and mystic of the delightful plush
bruins. She is author of Beyond a Hug: The Healing Power of Teddy
Bears. More information about Natalie and her bears can be found
at the "Teddy Bear Power"web site.