Hermann Teddy Originals - those bears with the famous red seal - come from a long line of  family-made European Teddies by James van Maanen
teddy hermann original teddy bear maker





Bernhard Hermann

It all began back in 1907, in the remote village of Neufang, Germany, where a fellow by the name of Johann Hermann persuaded his family to join him in making Teddy Bears. Five years later Johann's eldest son, Bernhard, married and, not surprisingly, wanted to begin his own business. Bernhard and his wife, Ida, moved to the much larger town of Sonneberg, which in the early part of the twentieth century was the centre of Germany's thriving toy industry. There, Ida produced four strapping boys, while Bernhard produced bears - his own line of bears, under the trademark name BE-HA, using letters from his first and last name.
Highly energetic and full of faith in his new business, Bernhard saw his plans suddenly halted by the outbreak of World War I, and it was Ida who had both to run the business and raise the children until he returned, alive and unharmed, in 1918. Soon, with buyers from around the world visiting Sonneberg and seeing Bernhard Hermann's bears, he began exporting to England, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States. From the very beginning, the firm's Teddies were high quality bears made mostly of mohair, and having disk joints, glass eyes and filling of excelsior, wadding or wool mixtures.

With the help of Ida, his sons and a few employees, Bernhard's business continued to grow, experiencing the usual ups and downs, until 1948. After World War II, with the partioning of Berlin and the division of Germany into Eastern and Western sectors, the city of Sonneberg found itself under Soviet rule. With the prospect of nationalization facing his business, Bernhard relocated to the company and his family to Hirschaid in Bavaria. Once there, the firm changed its name from BE-HA to Teddy-Pluschspielwarenfabrik, Gebruder Hermann KG, a German name that translates into English as "Teddy Plush Toy Factory, Hermann Brothers"-or, as it is known in its shortened form in Germany, Teddy-Hermann. The company's trademark also changed at this time: printed on a red seal affixed to each bear, it now read "HERMANN Teddy ORIGINAL."

hermann teddy bear  teddy hermann original

Margit Drolshagen - Hermann

After the move to Hirschaid, Bernhard's three sons (one had died at the age of 18) took over the management role as equal partners, and the firm continued to flourish. The next major change occurred in 1986, when Bernhard's granddaughters assumed responsibility for the business. Teddy-Hermann remains a fourth generation, family-run operation-but one managed solely by women. This would be an unusual enough occurrence here in the United States, but in Europe, at that time, it was practically unknown. 

Today, Margit Drolshagen has taken over sales and marketing, while her sister, Traudel Mischner, has been the company's designer for many years. Margit and Traudel are both Artur Hermann's daughters. Marion Mehling, daughter of Werner Hermann, has taken over responsibility for commercial organization, buying and importing, and Isabella Reiter, daughter of Hellmut Hermann, is responsible for production management.

Teddy-Hermann produces bears that are sought after worldwide and that are distinguished from all other bears by the expressions on their faces, notes Margit Drolshagen, Teddy-Hermann's joint managing director. "This is a serious but friendly look-open and frank-mixed with a touch of astonishment and knowledge," explains Drolshagen. "With its high forehead, mostly vertical stitched nose and brown or black eyes, this characteristic face is a mirror of all the love and joy put into each individual bear in Hirschaid."

While long-time collectors know the Teddy-Hermann bears very well, Drolshagen suggests that new collectors should always look for the red seal with HERMANN Teddy ORIGINAL written in gold, which will assure them of the real thing. Since 1994, the firm also affixes a small version of this seal to each bear's neck.

Today Teddy-Hermann employs approximately 100 people who help manufacture a collection that includes more than 300 different plush toys and collectibles in various shapes, colours, and styles, with Teddy Bears, of course, as its number-one staple. The bears are manufactured in the traditional manner: A funnel is used for stuffing each bear by hand with excelsior; noses are hand stitched; and only the finest mohair and other high-grade woven materials are used. 

As popular as Hermann Teddy Originals are today, what is most pleasing to Drolshagen and her staff is the fact that so many people of all ages and from around the world continue to appreciate these bears. "Many parents and grandparents want their offspring to have one of our bears, too, so that these children will have a special toy to play with-one that never grows old or ugly, but instead becomes a fast friend. It's not surprising to hear from many successful lawyers, teachers and other professionals about the Hermann bear they received as a child, who was there at their bedside after an operation in the hospital, or went with them on holiday, and perhaps even now sit atop their desk. That," she concludes, "is what really counts."