On Dec. 9, 1907, the Edgar H. Barber Co. on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland placed an advertisement in the Oakland Tribune. The store was anxious to get rid of its stuffed teddy bears.
It had too many bears and the Christmas market for teddy bears looked bleak.
The store advertised it was selling its stuffed toys at cost. Prices ranged from 80 cents to $2.90, which was more than half off.
Clergymen all over the country had been attacking the teddy bear craze since early summer. One priest in St. Louis was quoted in the Tribune as saying the teddy bear was an unfit toy for little girls; that it was dangerous "destroying all the natural care that little children give a real doll baby." However, local Oakland priests refused to take a stand on the teddy bear controversy, contending they hadn't studied the issue sufficiently.
In a July 14, 1907, Tribune article, Mrs. Cora Jones, president of the Oakland Club, said, "Dollies are by far a better educator than the Teddy bear."
"The Teddy bear should never be made a toy for little girls; it should be only for boys," said Mrs. William E. Sharon, who was quoted in the same article.
Morris Michtom is credited with starting the teddy bear craze in this country in 1902 when he saw a cartoon by Clifton Berryman depicting President Theodore Roosevelt (often referred to as Teddy) refusing to kill a black bear that had been clubbed to submission and tied to a tree by men in his hunting party. Roosevelt said it would be unsportsmanlike. However, he did instruct his aides to put the bear out of its misery.
Michtom got his wife to make two stuffed bears and put one in his store window. Then he sent one bear to the president and got his permission to name it a "Teddy" bear. The president agreed. Michtom started Ideal Novelty and Toy, and the stuffed teddy bear became legend.
But the teddy bear that had been flying off the shelves in 1906 was a glut on the market by 1907.
On its editorial page Dec. 26, 1907, the Tribune had this to say about the teddy bear craze:
"The season closed leaving dealers with big stocks of teddy bears on the shelves unsold -- just the reverse of the Christmas experience of last year when the stock was exhausted before the end of the season. The teddy bear fad was certainly one of the most peculiar which ever took possession of the juvenile world and at one time it threatened to extinguish the doll business entirely and destroy the motherly sentiment which the doll is supposed to plant and cultivate in the minds of little girls. Brief as the craze was for the teddy bear, the manufacturers made fortunes out of the fuzzy, freaky toy. But the passing of the teddy bear will surely make the doll-makers happy once more and give new life to their business."
Time passed and the teddy bear did not disappear. It is still one of the more popular stuffed toys on the market. And, apparently, the toy never did destroy maternal instincts in little girls.
Days Gone By appears Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at email@example.com.