Classic Toys: The Origin of the Teddy Bear

Throughout the years the toy market has seen many toys come and go but few have the staying power and the unique history of the Teddy Bear. As we’re thinking of things to buy our little ones for the holidays, maybe bypass yet another electronic gadget for a classic toy and a piece of American heritage.

The Origin of the Teddy Bear

It was November 1902 and our president at the time, Theodore Roosevelt went on a hunting excursion to Mississippi. The trip was business and pleasure: He was there to try to settle a boundary dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana. But it was to begin with a hunting excursion for the president, as he loved the sport.

On that particular day, the hunt did not go as planned as President Roosevelt could not find a suitable target to his liking. However, his staff, in an effort to accommodate him, somehow managed to capture a Louisiana black bear cub. These were different, rougher times remember – and they tied the little guy to a tree for the President to shoot.

The thought of shooting a baby bear tied to a tree did not seem sporting to the accomplished outdoorsman and he refused, instead sparing the life of the black bear cub and setting it free.


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Upon hearing the story, Clifford Berryman, a famous political cartoonist for the Washington Star at the time, drew a cartoon titled, ‘Drawing The Line In Mississippi’, depicting the President letting the bear live, and using the story as a metaphor as for how the president dealt with the boundary dispute.

The cartoon also showed the President with his rifle and his back turned on the cute, cowering, baby bear. This gave Brooklyn toy store owner, Morris Michtom the inspiration for a display for his shop.

He placed a copy of the newspaper cartoon next to a hand-sewn stuffed bear his wife made in the window of his store. To his surprise, he was inundated with customers eager to buy his stuffed bear!

Michtom quickly requested and received President Theodore Roosevelt’s permission to use his name for the stuffed bears that he and his wife were now selling. Thus the ‘teddy bear’ was born, and soon Michtom was producing the bears by the thousands. With the profits from the sales of the teddy bears Michtom went on to form the Ideal Toy Company.

Teddy bears continue to be best friends to children of all ages all over the world. Their mass appeal will never go out of style and they are a true classic to, albeit, with a little presidential help.

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