Theodore Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear
When Morris Michtom made the very first teddy bear in Brooklyn, New York, he had no idea that the toy bear would grow to become not only an American phenomenon but a worldwide sensation. From a novelty idea, the teddy bear evolved to become the most celebrated stuffed toy of all time. For many children, the teddy bear is their first “friend” because it’s one of the earliest items to be placed in the crib. Perhaps, it explains why teddy bears are so popular.
Why are teddy bears such great gifts? Whether it’s Christmas, baby showers, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or similar occasions, it appears that teddy bears are always warmly welcomed. This is because the teddy bear symbolizes warmth, love, cuddly gentleness, friendship, and security. In the wild, nobody would get near a bear so it’s such a novel idea to make a stuffed bear that you can hold and hug, without any fear. Some people even say that the teddy bear protects children from nasty nightmares.
The popularity of teddy bears gave rise to an immense industry. There are probably thousands of different types of teddy bears. Some of the more famous ones include Barnaby the Bear, Big Teddy and Little Teddy, Bobo, Berenstain Bears, Care Bears, Gummi Bears, Humphrey Bear, Paddington, Smokey the Bear, Winnie the Pooh, Tessie Bear, and Rupert. There are also teddy bear candies, teddy bear shirts, teddy bear handbags, teddy bear rugs, and more.
Where did Michtom get the idea for his teddy bear? In November 1902, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, went on a trip in Mississippi to hunt bears. After the other hunters had made their kill, Roosevelt’s team managed to trap an American Black Bear. Tying the bear to a willow tree, they asked Roosevelt to shoot the poor animal. Without giving a second thought, Roosevelt spurned the idea, refusing to shoot at the bear for the love of sportsmanship. Clifford Berryman parodied this episode in a cartoon which appeared in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. When Michtom saw the cartoon, he was moved to create a small stuffed bear cub to commemorate Roosevelt’s gentlemanly action. After obtaining permission from the President to use his name, Michtom put the toy in his novelty and candy shop window with a sign that read “Teddy’s Bear”. Around the same time, the Steiff firm in Germany also created a stuffed bear which they debuted in the Leipzig Toy Fair in early 1903. About three thousand of these bears were exported to the U.S. and they were instantly snapped up. Everywhere, people were crazy for these cute plush toys. The tremendous success of the teddy bear led Michtom to start the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. but soon, many other manufacturers joined in to meet the seemingly unquenchable demand. More than one hundred years later, the teddy bear is still so beloved and popular. Some teddy bears are so valuable that they have become collectors’ items.