We recently launched a new series of 'Spotlight Displays' as a way to showcase even more of our fantastic collections with our audiences, especially as we've had to make some changes to our exhibition programme because of the coronavirus pandemic. In these displays, which you'll find in The Courtyard Gallery at The Collection, we want to share some of the objects in our collection that you wouldn't normally get chance to see, and that we wouldn't normally get chance to display.
First up in our spotlight display is a lovely Steiff Teddy Bear (pictured). He is made with mohair fur fabric and is stuffed with straw. His eyes are made from metal boot buttons. In the bear's left ear you'll notice another button; this is the special mark that tells us he was made by the well-known toymaker Steiff in 1907. He's in rather good condition for a bear of 113 years old!
Steiff is a German company, originally founded by Margarete Steiff. Margarete was born in Germany in 1847. A fever as a child left her paralysed but she overcame this adversity and qualified as a seamstress at the age of 17. In 1877 she set up her own business and became well-known for a design she created of an elephant-shaped pin cushion. Over 5000 of these 'Elefäntle' were sold in the first year of their production and they were a great success.
In 1892 Margarete released the first full Steiff catalogue, featuring a whole range of stuffed animals, with the company motto of, 'only the best is good enough for children'. It wasn't until 1902, however, that a teddy bear became part of the range. The Steiff bear was designed by Margarete's favourite nephew Richard. Margarete wasn't keen on the idea of a bear, as she thought it would not be as popular as the other animals the company was already making. She was quickly proved wrong. In the year 1907, when our bear was made, Steiff produced 974,000 teddy bears for an international market.
Did you know that teddy bears were named in honour of American president Theodore Roosevelt? In 1902 the President was on a bear hunting trip in Mississipi. Having failed to catch anything, the president was not best pleased. His guides then found and caught a bear for him, but the president didn't think this was very fair so he told them to let the bear go. This story was widely reported in newspapers and there were cartoons drawn of the president with a very cuddly-looking bear. Shortly afterwards toy makers in America began manufacturing soft toy bears all named after Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt, and the name stuck.
Our teddy bear was gifted to the Grantham Museum in January 1987 on behalf of Mrs Grace Harrison. She was originally given the bear as a present by her Uncle and Auntie. They had purchased the bear from W.G. Harrison's Printers and Stationers which was situated on Grantham High Street. We have a photograph of the shop in our collections at the Lincolnshire Archives, reproduced here with their kind permission.
Over the summer we have been asking visitors to suggest a name for our bear. The winner of the competition was Sarah Murphy, who suggested the name 'Collinn', which is a very clever anagram of Lincoln – a perfect choice we think! 'Collinn' will remain on display until Thursday 10th September.
Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement about what will be in our next Spotlight Display, more information coming soon!
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