Razzi Writes #26

Posted by Erasmus 'Razzi' Bear on
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In December 2015, Davidd told us the tale of The Great Teddy Bear Shipwreck Mystery. The story goes that back in 1903 some three-thousand teddy bears were sent by ship from Steiff’s factory in Germany to America only for them to disappear. The bears were made and packed up for shipment, but there is no record of them ever reaching their destination and none of the US-bound bears has ever been found. The templates, patterns and even photos of the bears exist but not even one sample was kept. One popular explanation is that there was a shipwreck and the bears had a watery end. All that is certain is that if just one of these bears turned up today it would be ‘open chequebook’ time for museums and collectors. After all, these were the first teddy bears ever made.

In the Steiff museum, in the German town of Giengen, the mystery of the missing bears is explained to the visiting children with a tale that they were lost at sea. The idea of shipwrecked teddy bears – maybe living somewhere on a desert island – certainly captures the imagination, but is it true?

The facts are simple. Early one morning in 1903, a steamship was set to leave Bremen Harbour with the very special cargo on-board. On the ship are said to have been three-thousand, newly stitched, jointed bears – the very first ever made anywhere in the world. However, these events have become a mystery which has turned into the subject of collector’s dreams. No trace remains or has ever been found, neither has one ever turned up in someone’s attic or toy chest. So I thought I would try and find out just what happened to these, very first, toy bears.

One of the bears definitely made it to America. Late in 1902, a sample bear was produced and sent to America on-board the ship SS Hanover. The crate sent contained contracts, consignment documents and also a sample bear. Bear PB55, as it was known, has never been seen since, however. The current world record for the sale of a teddy bear is over £180,000 but it is certain PB55 would smash that record out of sight.

So far the facts are that Richard Steiff invented PB55 in late 1902 and a sample was made and shipped to America during the spring of 1903, where it did not sell. A year later twelve-thousand bears were sent to American and every single one of them sold and there are shipping and customs records for these bears proving that they did exist and were shipped. However, they were not bear PB55 they were a later model – PB35 – which was shorter, cuter, more blonde and a little more user-friendly for children. There is concrete evidence that this all happened but now we have to enter the realms of speculation.

The story of the ship-wrecked bears first started in 1953 when Steiff were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the teddy bear. The story was quickly spread by a member of Steiff’s marketing department who was writing a little festival book. Many people who work for Steiff believe that the story is not true but, instead, is a very clever little marketing idea and nothing else.

So was a ship stuffed with bears really lost at sea somewhere between Bremen and New York? It seems most unlikely. However, the romantic in me likes to imagine a shoal of bears floating serenely through a shimmering blue ocean before washing up, waterlogged, in the surf of some pristine shore. Destined to live out their lives on a desert island.

Just where they would find their Jammy Toast on a desert island is perhaps a bigger mystery.

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Erasmus 'Razzi' Bear


Self-confessed playbear and lady-killer; Razzi has the heart of many of our friends at his beck and call. Although very hard working in his daytime job as an Assistant Driving Instructor, he also likes to play very hard when the day is done. A smouldering look from Razzi has been known to melt many a fair maiden’s icy heart!

27 Comments on “Razzi Writes #26”

  1. I hope they did find shore and are living a great life!!

    In other news today I made a cheesecake and meringue woo hoo see I would of made a good wife :roflao: and I was also refused by a supermarket to purchase an alcoholic beverage because I had no ID. Other than the fact Im a mentalist I really would be a catch :grin:

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