To celebrate National Teddy Bear Day on 9 September, we are launching the first article in our new Teddy Bear Focus series. This series will look at some of our more unusual teddy bears from Mr Simpson's Teddy Bear Museum at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke.
Early bears like Steiff bears and Morris Michtom bears were more realistic and arguably less cute than modern bears, with bigger snouts, longer arms and humps on their backs. Peter the bear takes realism a bit further. He is perhaps, our scariest bear, with an open mouth showing sharp looking teeth. When you tilt him back and forth, the glass eyes roll and the tongue moves. He also growls. He is covered with dark brown mohair and his paws are made of felt.
Peter was made in 1925 during the interwar years of the Weimar Republic by German toy manufacturer: Gebrüder Sussenguth. Founded in Neustadt, Bavaria in 1894, by the Sussenguth brothers, Wilhelm and Franz, they produced toys and dolls from 1925 – 1928. They are best known for their series of "Peter" bears which came in four sizes. At the time, the bears did not sell well because of their terrifying expressions. Children found the long teeth, rolling eyes and wobbly tongue scary. This means that originals are quite rare and also that there were a lot of parts for the bears left when the company went out of business.
In 1976, original bear parts were found in a closed East German factory. These were smuggled across the border to the west, and with that 100 new Peter bears were made using original parts for collectors.
Our Peter has got his original box and is in good condition. Sadly one of his eyes has fallen back inside his head so he looks even more terrifying than normal! We know the eye is still there as one of our conservators managed to get it back in place. But, during his journey to Mr Simpson’s Teddy Bear Museum it fell back inside his head again! He is awaiting his second trip to teddy bear hospital to fix this, but perhaps not until after Halloween!