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North Devon in 100 Objects: 87. Marion Abbott’s Teddy Bear

A teddy bear, made of mohair and has an extended snout and beady eyes, wearing a knitted red jumper and green shorts.

This teddy bear was won at Barnstaple Fair in North Walk in September 1934 by Edwin Whale.  His wife Ethel was expecting and so he put it aside as a gift for the new baby.  Marion was born a month later.

The 1930s were the heyday of Barnstaple Pleasure Fair, which was eagerly expected every year by the people of North Devon.   When the showmen’s lorries began trundling through the town children would run along after them to watch the rides and stalls being unpacked.  Exciting new rides, like Waltzers and Dodgems were joining the traditional Gallopers and Helter Skelters, and there were fortune tellers, rifle ranges and hoopla stalls to visit.  Barnstaple Fair was one of the biggest in the country and in 1934 was opened by Robert Worth Bingham, the ambassador of the United States.

Up until 1902 bears as toys were novelties.  It was only after Theodore Roosevelt refused to kill a bear while on a hunting trip that they became popular. Named ‘Teddy’ after President Roosevelt, the Teddy Bear has been a part of childhood ever since.

As a child Marion asked her mother to make her bear some clothes, as it was cold, and since then it has been dressed in a knitted red jumper and green shorts.  Like the first bears made in the early 20th century, Marion’s bear is made of mohair and has an extended snout and beady eyes.  Marion, now Mrs Abbott, kept it for over 80 years before giving it to the museum.

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