The British Museum has a rag doll on display, found in a Roman child’s grave, dated somewhere around 300 B.C. Dolls made from scraps of cloth might be the oldest kind of toy. Almost every family would have the means and the skills to make their own. The commercial production of soft stuffed toys, however, was established much later, in 1880, first by a German company that had started out as upholsterers. Stuffed toys were produced that resembled animals as well as people, due to animals having more interesting outside texture and patterns. A stuffed bear would be given the “skin” of a fluffy fabric that suggested fur, for example.
At almost the same time, across the ocean, an American by the name of Morris Michtom was credited with creating a less realistic, more appealing bear stuffed toy, inspired by a drawing of then-President Theodore Roosevelt with a bear cub. The “teddy bear” has since become one of the most iconic stuffed toys for children.
The first stuffed toy to be patented was the eponymous character of Beatrix Potter’s famous novel, Peter Rabbit. It was patented in 1903. During the great depression, most of those in want of stuffed toys returned to the rag doll roots, now influenced by the toy industry of decades past, and took to making stuffed toys of monkeys made out of socks. Since then, stuffed toys have been made of different kinds of animals, real or even fantastical, with a range of different fabrics, patterns, and stuffing: sawdust, foam, or cotton. Whatever the conditions, a stuffed toy seems to be greatest comfort for children of all ages.
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