After the dramatic sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Steiff produced black teddy bears for the very first time, to reflect the mood of the grieving nation of Great Britain. These ‘mourning bears’ have remained in the memory of many people to this day.
This style of black Steiff is from a special order made for the UK with only 494 bears produced in five sizes. Unfortunately, the bears were not good sellers- perhaps the children thought they were a scary change from the fuzzy brown teddies more commonly seen?! They are now one of the most sought-after bears among collectors.
One such bear that has been in the same family since 1912, and could possibly be Steiff, has come to auction with a remarkable story.
Elsie Winifred Aiers/ Kemp was born in China in 1912. Her father went out to China in the late 1800’s with the Army to fight against the Boxer Rebellion. On her birth she was gifted the charming black teddy bear. It was probably not expected to ‘survive’ for over a century and turn up for auction with a such fascinating history. A small photograph shows the teddy bear with Elsie in November 1913 in Shanghai. It was loved and cherished by the whole family who travelled across the world with their roots in the Far East.
During World War II the bear accompanied the seller’s mother to a Japanese prison camp. During that time she never let the bear out of sight and held him close until her release by the Americans. Later, in 1948, the seller’s father gained a new job within the Colonial Service in Nigeria, so the family made a move with the bear, and remained there until they retired when Nigeria gained independence.
By this time, the poor bear had bleached in the sun. Elsie took care of the bear until she sadly passed away in 2004, when it was inherited by her son, now living in Cornwall. He fondly remembers playing with him regularly until he went to boarding school in the UK. And has shared a fascinating history about his family during the war and with the Shanghai Police.
Auctioneer Paul Keen “whilst the teddy bear is in ‘well loved’ condition, its history, and journeys over the last hundred years including ‘witnessing’ the struggles of a Japanese prisoner of war camp and numerous international moves is incredible. We are expecting a lot of interest at the auction, it’s possible that it could sell for several hundred pounds!”
The Antiques & Collectables Auction will be held at Plymouth Auction Rooms on 10th October, starting at 10:30am. The bear is Lot 22 and can be viewed by appointment over the next month. For further details please visit plymouthauctions.co.uk.