Category:American Stick Bears

From The Brighton Toy and Model Index

American "Stick Bears" are typical of the 1920s and 1930s. This was a period in which the US hadn't had much time to enjoy it's emergence from the post-war period before being hit by the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Early American teddy bears

Early bears had tended to include quite strong design-work, with imports from the master manufacturers of animal soft toys Steiff setting market expectations (and fellow-German manufacturer Bing also selling version of some of the Steiff designs). Richard Steiff's bears had been modelled on real, living "zoo" bears in Germany, and were meant to be "quality" products, and as a result, American manufacturers who were trying to address the same market as these German imports had to live up to certain expectations.

With World War One and its social and economic aftermath, Steiff and Bing found it more difficult to export bears to the US, partly due to anti-German feeling and partly due to Germany's post-war hyperinflation economy. With teddybears becoming a more established mainstream toy that wasn't just for children whose parents could afford American department store or mailorder bears, or Steiff or Bing imports, there was a new demand for very cheap "generic" bears and no shortage of people who were happy to make them.

The "austerity" teddybear

This was a boom period for stick bears, produced by myriad small manufacturers whose anonymous soft toys were more aimed at parents who might previously have bought cheap ragdolls (except that a bear could also be considered a suitable present for a small boy who might turn his nose up at something doll-like). Stick bears were small and somewhat skinny, with simple long straight tubular legs that usually didn't have fancy paws or stitched claws, and their torsos tended to be simple elongated blobs that didn't attempt to reference a real bear's chest or hunch. The bears' comparatively long limbs made them easy to hug and hold as a "comforter", but their skinniness minimised the amount of material and stuffing needed, with most of the designwork being reserved for the head and face, which was often an odd-shaped lump with little sticky-out ears that had a tendency to adopt odd and asymmetrical positions after a lot of hugging.

Stick bears, while cheap and simple and put together by people who may never have seen a real-life bear, were still much-loved by their owners – although they tended to look somewhat emaciated next to the more expensive and more realistic bears, this waifish air of poverty and food-deprivation often gave stick bears a more individual and plaintive look that was sometimes missing from their much more expensive, chubby, glossy-furred and well-fed-looking brethren. Stick bears looked like they needed to be hugged and looked after, and their uneven wear characteristics meant that if you'd grown up with a stick bear you'd have no difficulty recognising your bear alongside another. In the 1930s, widespread poverty also meant that children might have found it easier to identify with and bond with a "skinny" bear when they were surrounded by similarly "skinny" children, adults and animals.


Since the people making these bears were often trying to make a little extra cash to survive, and weren't trying to create a distinctive toy or a commercial "brand", identifying the maker and source of a given stickbear is usually impossible. The designs were generic, the makers didn't add tags or other makers' marks, and even if a given maker had had their own distinctive twist on the stick bear pattern, their design was unlikely to be documented in a catalogue image (unlike the more expensive name-brand bears).


The importance of the stick bear in US teddybear history was recognised by the US Postal Service on 2002 when they issued a set of four stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear, with one of the four chosen examples being an anonymous stick bear (with typically wonky ears!).

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Pages in category ‘American Stick Bears’

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Media in category ‘American Stick Bears’

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