Othello The Black Steiff Titanic Bear
A rare teddy bear aka the “Titanic Bear” that was made in 1912 to mourn those killed in the Titanic is on display in Witney for the last time.
A very rare Steiff black Teddy Bear, a mourning bear following the Titanic disaster in 1912, with curly black mohair, black boot button eyes, red felt discs behind, pronounced clipped muzzle, black stitched nose, mouth and claws, swivel head, jointed elongated limbs, remains of felt pads, FF button and inoperative growler ?20in (50cm) high (pads recovered, small patched hole under mouth stitching, bald spot to left hand which has worn to a small hole, other balding on the inside of arms and slight fading); and a period photograph of the original owner aged about two.
This important Titanic Bear was produced by Steiff in 1912, the same year that the RMS Titanic sank. This tragedy greatly affected Great Britain – over 1500 people were killed across all of society; there were very few people in the country who did not know of someone on this ship. In Edwardian Britain mourning was taken very seriously; people wore black armbands and shop windows were draped in black. The month after the disaster, in mid May, an order was placed by Steiff to the mohair manufacturer Schulte Cloth, for a large quantity of black mohair.
After checking with Steiff it was confirmed that they had received an order for 50 dozen (600) black Teddy Bear from England. The order was rushed through and in a matter of weeks these bears were for sale across Britain. This particular size bear is one of only eighty-two made. This Titanic Bear was given to a little girl, Rita Maud Skoyles who was born in Norwich, in January 1908; so she would have been four years old when she received him. She never married, becoming a teacher and kept this bear with her all her life.
Teddy Bears of Witney, in High Street, paid £8,800 for the bear, named Othello, in 1990 and it has since gone on display around the world.
The bear was one of only 454 made by teddy bear firm Steiff and, despite being 100-years-old, is in fantastic condition. But the shop has decided to sell Othello and it will be the number one auction at the Steiff Festival in Germany in July.
Shop assistant Kay Bellinger said: “A lot of people have seen Othello over the years and we thought this year would be a lovely year to share him with someone else.”
Asked how much Othello is worth today, she would only say: “That remains to be seen.”
But the Witney shop is also home to Alfonzo, a bear which once belonged to a Russian princess and for which the shop paid a world record £12,100 for in 1985.
Alfonzo is thought to be the only red Steiff bear of its age in existence.