The Interesting History of Teddy Bears

Teddy BearsOne of the few items an adult may keep from his or her childhood is… their teddy bear. For many people, their teddy bear is one of their first inanimate-but-important friends. Sure, they’re stuffed, don’t speak, and don’t move, but they’re also–generally–cute and cuddly. How many of you have ever hugged a teddy bear? They’re hard to resist! Kids typically bring their teddy bears with them wherever they go, talking to them, hugging them, and showing care and concern, like a parent would a child.

Even though teddy bears seem so normal and ubiquitous nowadays, they’re a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of the world. You can credit former U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Picture it: 1902. Mississippi. Roosevelt went bear hunting at the invitation of then Mississippi Governor Andrew Longino. Unfortunately, while other hunters had luck, Roosevelt did not. His assistants cornered a black bear and tied the animal to a tree! They asked Roosevelt to shoot it but the President, a noted big game hunter, refused. That wasn’t the proper way to hunt a bear. Of course this story spread like wildfire, making the newspapers all over the country.

Just like today, politicians were ripe for lampooning, and a cartoonist did just that. Clifford Berryman drew a cartoon about the incident and it ended up in the Washington Post dated November 16, 1902. You can imagine a lot of people saw that cartoon. One man, Morris Michtom, lived in Brooklyn where he owned and ran a candy shop. On the side, he and his wife Rose made stuffed animals. When Michtom saw the cartoon about the President who wouldn’t shoot a bear, he then decided to create a stuffed bear and dedicate it to Roosevelt. It was called “Teddy’s bear.”

Doing things properly, Michtom secured permission to use Roosevelt’s name for his creation. Well, people went nuts for these stuffed bears, much like they would in the 1980s for Cabbage Patch Kids and Pound Puppies. So many were sold that the Ideal Toy Company formed because Michtom had such great success.

Teddy bears are still a vital stuffed animal even in 2017. Most kids have or want them. Plenty of older folks collect them. Indeed, Gigi’s Dolls has a whole section of various stuffed bears for sale here: People love teddy bears.