Stuffed Giant Toys and The Teddy Bear Industry in The US

In the world of soft toys, there is so much to choose from that it can make deciding on which one to pick, a daunting task. That problem should be easily solved when you look to stuffed giant toys as your choice. With these larger than life animals, stuffed giant toys make the pleasure of owning them all the more enjoyable.

The United States was booming in the early 1920s; new businesses popped up every day in a place where both enterprise and innovation were strongly encouraged. Loads of immigrants came to what was deemed the Land of Opportunity. In October 1929, all of this came tumbling down when Wall Street crashed after millions of dollars were wiped off the stock market. Businesses and banks failed and what followed was the Great Depression in which 13.7 million people were unemployed.

Many of the U.S. soft toy manufacturers didn’t survive this period and while they were able to benefit from the embargo on imported German toys that was in place during World War I, the market practically dried up given buying teddy bears and other luxury items were considered a waste of money. Lots of toymakers went out of business, novelty lines of teddy’s disappeared, and cheaper, poor-quality bears became favored by buyers and manufacturers. In 1933, things began to turn around when following the new reforms (called the New Deal) put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, new companies and new designs emerged.

In 1923, Benjamin Mitchom joined his father’s company in New York – the Ideal Novelty Co. In 1928, when his father died, Benjamin took over the company and turned it into one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers. During the 1920s and 1930s, Ideal teddy bears didn’t change very much; during the years of war, the bears were a little thinner as materials were at a premium at that time. A range of small jointed bears were produced in the 1940s which were stuffed with kapok (a soft natural fiber). They had noses that were molded out of resin and actually foreshadowed the machine washable bears that were to come in the 1950s.

Knicherbockers was another U.S. company that was in competition on toy shelves with Ideal. The Knickerbocker Toy Co. was founded in 1850 in Albany, New York State and produced educational toys like wooden alphabet blocks. In the 1920s, they turned to making soft toys. Some of their early bears had triangular-shaped heads that had large, round ears, and flat muzzles. Their bodies were usually thinner than those of European teddy’s that were being made during the same time and there were no humps on their backs.

The Commonwealth Toy & Novelty Co. (which is still in operation today), did everything they could think of so they could outlast the Depression. Established in 1934 by a Mr. Greenfield, it focused on the novelty bear market. In 1937, it launched the ‘Feed Me Bear’ line which was one of their most successful. While not the best looking teddy, children fell in love with him because they could put things in his mouth. When they pulled a string at the back of his head, his mouth would open; food could be fed into his mouth and removed at an opening at the back. This line of bears was used to promote animal crackers by The National Biscuit Co. and they were often put on display in grocery stores all over the United States.

Since teddy bears are as much loved today as when they were first created in Germany in 1902, it seems conceivable that when choosing stuffed giant toys, going for teddy’s would be a wise decision. While there are lots of other types of stuffed giant toys from which to choose, they don’t always seem to conjure up the same things a teddy does: companions that can share in every disaster and every triumph, comfort when times are tough, and finally, share in every great or small adventure.

┬ęCopyright Shelley Vassall, 2010.