We’ve all played with one at some point; stuffed animal bears are rooted in our country’s childhood. But did you know that we have these stuffed bears because a certain man immersed himself in the natural world in the early twentieth-century?
Theodore Roosevelt, commonly known as Teddy, became the 26th President of the United States in 1901. Being an avid outdoorsman and naturalist, Roosevelt loved to explore the natural world. In his presidency he was even able to protect over 200 million acres of public land, and establish the U.S. Forest Service, as well as five National Parks! But what does this have to do with the stuffed animal bears?
In the fall of 1902, Teddy Roosevelt accepted a hunting invitation from Mississippi governor, Andrew Longino. Their guide was a man named Holt Collier, who knew the land well. Collier was determined to help an eager Roosevelt find a black bear. On the second day of their excursion, Collier came across one. Collier, who knew Roosevelt was significantly behind him with Longino, decided to tie the bear up for Roosevelt. However, when Roosevelt arrived on the scene, he was astonished. Roosevelt exclaimed that such an act would be unsportsmanlike.
The news of this act of compassion from the President spread so quickly around the United States that Clifford Berryman of the Washington Post produced the sensational cartoon at the top of this blog.
Then, a couple in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rose and Morris Michtom, saw the cartoon. They owned a penny candy shop and decided, for fun, that they would make a stuffed plush bear and display it in the window to honor the President. Rose cut out some pieces of fabric and sewed on some button eyes and put it in the window with the name, Teddy’s Bear. It was an overnight hit. So much so, that the Mitchtoms had to ask if they could use Roosevelt’s name for the bear. Roosevelt obliged, and their business took off! Instead of selling candy the couple decided to start the Ideal Toy Company, which went on to produce a multi-generational love of Teddy Bears.
Roosevelt’s children were some of the first to play with the Teddy Bear. Although not confirmed, It is said that as a gift the Michtom’s gave the above bear to Kermit Roosevelt, who was thirteen at the time. The bear was a constant reminder to the children of the tenderness of their father and his deep connection to the natural world.