I feel like a museum archivist handling a special find.
This bear I'm calling Firefly
(RIGHT: body de-stuffed) >
has all the things I've been reading that antique bears have,
starting with glass eyes,
and velvet(een?) paws,
all obvious from the outside.
When I opened him up,
he had the other classic, standard things:
A noise-making box [BELOW],
broken of course, wrapped in "wood wool" (shaved soft wood, often birch--also called by its brand name Excelsior--same stuff used to stuff furniture and, I think, taxidermy animals).
While it's called a "growler", when you tilt the bear the sound it emits is more like the bleat of a sheep.
Its head and all four limbs are articulated with metal-and-cardboard joints [BELOW], which makes it impossible to wash the bear by immersion---the cardboard will warp.
The white stuffing I'd thought was cotton is––exciting to me!––kapok---my first encounter with the seed-pod fluff of the cieba tree, a tree cultivated for its fibers in south-east Asia (also grows in equatorial regions of other continents).
Kapok is all-natural, waterproof, lightweight, and fluffy and was much used in stuffed animal making before the advent of artificial fluff.
The growler is wrapped in wood-wool because kapok fibers get into and clog its mechanism.
So... I've read that its best not to mess too much with these old bears unless they NEED it, because they're fragile.
But this bear reeked, right through its kapok.
Does the smell, in fact, mean the bear had dry rot or something that is unremidiable?
I don't know, but I figure I may as well go ahead and see what I can do.
I just ordered online 5 lbs. of kapok---it's about $9/lb.
I think that should be enough for all the antique bears I got.
The ones with polyester fur I figure can get polyester stuffing, which is cheaper and also bouncier, though kapok does have a nice loft.
I did not (yet?) unstuff Firefly's head though. It's stuffed with wood-wool, which gives it a nice, firm shape, but its woodiness also makes it easier to tear the material when you're taking it out.
Maybe I can just leave it...