Too much to bear

Teddy bears on display during Christmas at the Belle Boyd House

Teddy bears on display during Christmas at the Belle Boyd House

November 23, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Infamous Confederate spy Belle Boyd died two years before the teddy bear craze swept the United States in 1902.

But during her life, the Martinsburg native was a woman who would never turn down the chance to entertain. So in honor of Boyd, the Berkeley County Historical Society will host its annual Christmas at the Belle Boyd House from Friday, Nov. 28, to Monday, Dec. 22. The teddy bear-themed event is free.

There are teddy bears on display "of all sizes and shapes," said Berkeley County Historical Society President Don C. Wood.

Wood said the bears are on loan from Dr. Allison Evans-Wood and her daughter, Isabella. Lynne Seibert, a member of the historical society, has also loaned bears from her own collection.

One of the special teddies on display, Wood said, is a large black bear, which is West Virginia's state animal.

The teddy bear received its name from President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. The toys were inspired by a hunting event in Roosevelt's life, according to The Teddy Bear Museum Web site (at During his presidency, Roosevelt was hunting with the governor of Mississippi and friends, but Roosevelt failed to bag a bear. His hosts caught one and tethered it as a target. Roosevelt refused to shoot it. He told his hunting partners, "Spare the bear! I won't shoot a tethered bear!"


Inspired by a Washington Post cartoon about the event, Morris and Rose Michtom, of Brooklyn, N.Y., made a bear toy that they named "Teddy's Bear." At the same time, Margarete Steiff, a disabled seamstress in Germany, made a soft bear that became a craze on the other side of the ocean.

The Christmas celebration has been a long tradition at the Belle Boyd House. Wood said it takes about three days to decorate with the help of about 10 volunteers.

In addition to the house, volunteers also decorate the Herb Garden, located next to the Berkeley County Historical Society Archives and Research Center, next door at 136 E. Race St.

There will be a variety of music and refreshments during the weekend hours.

The Belle Boyd House is located at 126 E. Race St., downtown Martinsburg. The house is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 304-267-4713.


Photos by Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

The teddy bear celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2002. This is a limited edition bear celebrating the milestone. The original teddy bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt.

Christmas bears line up under a portrait of Stonewall Jackson at the Belle Boyd House in Martinsburg, W.Va. During the Civil War Boyd was a Confederate spy.

A classroom of teddy bears sit patiently in their classroom as part of a display at the Belle Boyd House in Martnisburg, W.Va. Don C. Wood, president of the Berkeley County Historical Society, said there are hundreds of bears on display as part of the Christmas at the Belle Boyd House.

Mohair bears with shoe button eyes are part of the teddy bear collection at the Belle Boyd House. The bears at 80 years old, left, and 95 years old are stuffed with wood exceslsior.

A Boyds Santa bear is one of the many newer types of teddy bears on display.

A collection of bears both young and old sit underneath a Christmas tree decorated with antique ornaments some of which are nearly 100 years old.

A Victorian-dressed bear made by Boyds Bears, which is a company that is popular with many modern day teddy bear collectors.

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