Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Fall toy sales, luck and a certain sense of indulgence have contributed to a certain abundance here at Pictorama at the moment. This photo postcard hails from that fall haul and is one of the smallest, but not least of purchases. I would say it dates back to the nascent days of the teddy bear, when its relationship to a President Roosevelt was still very much in evidence. As the story goes, Roosevelt (big game hunter as well as President) when given the opportunity to shoot a bear tied to a tree had declared it unsportsmanlike and declined. The editorial pages made hay with it and the stuffed bear toys were created in tribute.
The little girl in the photo looks awfully pleased with herself and she is nattily clad in hunting gators, “ammo” type belt and has her hat at a jaunty angle, as is her rifle – aimed at the heart of this poor teddy bear. She has one foot atop him, victorious over the vanquished toy – I love her attitude. She’s feeling her role. Meanwhile, the bear looks like a Steiff to me, a nice size one and certainly that company was at the forefront of the teddy bear producing craze.
There is a great early animated film using these toy bears from this period, The Teddy Bears from 1907. It tells the Teddy Roosevelt hunting story in a mash up with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, featuring folks in bear suits and ending with a crazy bit of Steiff bear stop-motion animation. It can be seen on Youtube as of the time of writing here. (This was the best print I could access although there is a better one out there I have seen.)
I purchased this card from a British toy vendor via an online sale a few weeks ago and I believe it to be made in Britain, although I cannot make out the tiny makers mark in the lower left corner. The card was never used postally. I have never seen it before, but it does fall slightly outside my area of collecting so I don’t have a sense of how common it might be.
Somewhere in a parallel universe, I believe I collect early teddy bears, especially Steiff. Somehow those bears manage to have very human expressions – each slightly different as well. (They fill shelves and cabinets in a house I live in via that universe, staring sympathetically at me.) Oddly, the single model of black cat produced by that company in the first few decades of the 20th century, while very available is somewhat charmless. To me they all look alike and have little personality – a source of some sadness to me frankly.
However, hold the presses, while researching this today I discovered these fascinating forerunners of the basic Steiff arched back black cat! Plenty of personality is not an issue with these guys. What’s more, I had the opportunity to purchase one in the same sale referenced above – it only would have required a few thousand dollars I didn’t have another use for.
I was feeling indulgent, but maybe not quite that much! It might have been a good investment however, these are extremely rare and are from the earliest days of Steiff according to the site, My Steiff Life, in a post written back in 2013. (The blog post can be found here.) One of the fellows she posts about actually has a Steiff identifying button in his tail! Evidently these cats were produced in both black and even more rarified white – of those I could not even find a photo. Below I share a photo of the fellow who got away. Alas, I guess we here at Pictorama can’t expect to win them all – but we can try.