8 June 2001


SUE Streete of Streete Bears started her talk to the Essex and Suffolk FWC by telling us the history of the teddy bear.

For those of you who dont know the American tale, apparently in 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt was out shooting bears and hadnt had much luck at bagging one. His aides decided that he should get one by the end of the day and captured a cub and tied it to a tree so that Mr President couldnt miss.

President Roosevelt would not shoot the cub and in the following mornings paper a cartoon appeared of the bear cowering by a tree while the president walked away.

A Russian immigrant made "Teddys" bear in the image of the cartoon character and put it in a shop window for sale. The first Ideal Toy Company bears were made in 1903. However in Germany, left-over felt was used as early as 1895 to make tiny toy elephants and Marguerita Steiff started making bears in 1904. Collecting bears has become big business – a limited edition of a mourning bear made after the sinking of the Titanic fetched £91,000 at auction last year.

Sue has been making toys for as long as she can remember but the regulations became too stringent for selling toys so she joined her husband Pete with potato harvesting for 10 years.

Then toy regulations changed, self certification came in and Sue was tempted and bought some lengths of mohair from her supplier and joined a group of people selling toys by party plan in Colchester. In 1994 she was approached by Essex County Council to take her bears to a trade fair in Luxembourg and with six months notice Streete Bears got their international recognition and Sue hasnt looked back.

In the meantime Pete had given up spuds and become an agricultural engineer but after five years had to give up driving for health reasons. He took a course in porcelain restoration and now he and Sue run a Dolls and Teddies Hospital in Stanway, Essex. Its a marvellous little shop stuffed full of toys, with gifts and Sues beautiful teddy bears for sale.

Jean Howells

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