A&W Root Beer Bear

This is the A&W Root Beer Bear in my collection © 1975, and is 13 inches tall. The soft teddy bear is dark brown with a tan muzzle and orang hat and shirt. Photographed by Mary Jane Lamphier.

I am seeing all kinds of bears in the windows, in the newspaper and on T-V. I joined the crowd and have Teddy Bears in my window, to remind me and those that pass by, to “Grin and BEAR it.”

Most of my Teddy Bears are promotional bears. Today I am writing about the A & W Root Beer Bear. He has a good smile and a lot of history. “A & W, a Great American Brand,” was started in Lodi, California in June 1919. Roy Allen began selling a Root Beer beverage in his first stand. He took on a partner, Frank Wright. Obviously the two men combined their initials of the last names and named the root beer A & W Root Beer. The name was registered with the U.S Patent & Trademark Office in 1924, and according to one source Allen bought Wrights share of the business that same year. The business continued to grow and in 1966 A&W Root Beer restaurants were in Canada too.

Americans loved A & W Root Beer and by 1950 there were 450 restaurants nationwide. Customers could recognize the drive-in restaurants by the bright orange trimming on brown buildings. Roy Allen retired and the new owner, Gene Hurtz, formed the A&W Root Beer Company. Hurtz expanded and the A & W Root Beer became available in grocery stores in 1971.

The A&W Root Beer Bear was not introduced until 1974 and became a mascot that served as a goodwill ambassador for the brand. In 1975 a 13-inch Root Beer Bear was sold over the counter in the A&W restaurants. It I a dark brown, plush bear with a tan muzzle, orange beret and a long sleeved orange shirt with the A&W logo on the front. The black eyes are plastic and placed wide apart. His friendly smile is tan felt and the nose is black felt. Both are glued to the face of the bear.

Through the years several A&W Root Beer Bears were offered as promotions. The 1990s was the era of beanbag dolls and of course the A&W people had something to offer. The little brown bear was only six-inches tall. It has a tan muzzle with a big embroider smile and plastic eyes. The logo is sewn to the orange shirt again.

The older A&W Root Bear collectibles may be found on the secondary market. Other A&W Root Beer Bear items I have seen on the WWW auctions are earrings, pins, stickers, mugs, patches, sippers, caps t-shirts and flags. Prices vary considerably, so shop around when you go bear hunting. If anyone has a question, contact me at mjlamphier@iowatelecom.net.