There's a prop from the future in this episode of Bonanza that you probably missed
It was a "bear-ly" noticeable prop that you probably didn't think about!
Watch the Bonanza episode "Gabrielle" this Friday, November 29, at 2PM | 1C as part of A Very Merry MeTV!
Bonanza is pretty good about keeping things historically accurate. It's hard to imagine that anything would slip by prop masters or scenic designers, but even the best in the business can miss a detail.
In the opening scenes of the season three episode "Gabrielle," Hoss and Little Joe come upon an overturned wagon that appears to have fallen off of the ledge of a mountain trail.
As they assess the losses, Hoss comes across a small, stuffed bear in the snow, informing the Cartwrights that there's a child nearby. It's a solid assessment, as they shortly find Gabrielle, the sole survivor of the crash.
The episode goes on to show the Cartwright men trying to find Gabrielle and her bear a safe place to live. There's only one teeny, tiny issue with this stuffed animal; it hadn't been introduced to Americans yet.
In fact, the teddy bear didn't become popular in the United States until the early 20th century, and Bonanza takes place in the 1800s. The teddy bear popped up in two separate parts of the world at around the same time. The common story in the United States is that the bear was inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt, nicknamed "Teddy" for short.
The story goes that while on a hunting trip in 1902, the then-President refused to shoot a bear that had been tethered to a tree for him to claim as a hunting prize. Word spread of his refusal and inspired inventor Morris Michtom to create the bear in his honor, using the President's nickname as the title of the new toy.
At around the same time, the German toy company Steiff also produced a stuffed bear based on Richard Steiff's original designs. He showed off the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March of 1903. Historical rumors suggest that a buyer from American toy company George Borgfeldt & Company ordered 3,000 of these bears, but lost the shipment while it was being transported overseas.
There is a lot of speculation surrounding how the bear made the leap over the ocean in either direction, but one thing is certain; it was definitely not in the states until after 1900, making it improbable for Gabrielle to have had a teddy bear as her beloved stuffed companion.