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The History of The Teddy Bear


The Teddy Bear is more youthful than you might imagine, having only been invented in 1902.  It’s quite surprising that the cuddly children’s toy is younger than the electric lightbulb, the telephone and the motor car.  But despite its youth the history of the Teddy Bear is nonetheless enjoyable.

In 1902 US President Theodore Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Mississippi.  As reported in the Washington Post, the presidential hunting party trailed and lassoed a lean, black bear, then tied it to a tree.  The president was summoned, but when he arrived on the scene he refused to shoot the tied and exhausted bear, considering it to be unsportsmanlike and uttered the immortal words, ‘Spare the bear! I will not shoot a tethered animal.’  

The following day, November 16, Clifford Berryman drew a cartoon of the scene, which was published in the Washington Post, and immortalised the incident as part of a front-page cartoon montage. Berryman pictured Roosevelt, his gun before him with the butt resting on the ground and his back to the animal, gesturing his refusal to take the trophy shot.  Written across the lower part of the cartoon were the words "Drawing the Line in Mississippi," which coupled the hunting incident to a political dispute.  The cartoon drew immediate attention.

In Brooklyn, New York, shopkeeper Morris Michtom displayed 2 toy bears in the window of his stationary and novelty store.  The bears had been made by his wife, Rose from plush stuffed excelsior and finished with black shoe button eyes. Michtom recognised the immediate popularity of the new toy, requested and received permission from Roosevelt himself to call them "Teddy's Bears".  The little stuffed bears were a success.   As demand for them increased, Michtom mooved his business to a loft, under the name of the Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation. 

At the same time as it was born in The United States, the Teddy Bear was also born in Germany.  The Steiff Company of Giengen produced its first jointed stuffed bears during the same 1902-1903 period.  The company had made toys for a number of years and had produced small wool-felt pincushion type animals of many varieties.  The animals were the creation of Margaret Steiff.  Steiff bears were first introduced at the 1903 Leipzig Fair, where an American buyer saw them and ordered several thousand for shipment to the US.  While other stories have been told regarding the birth of this wonderful toy, the simultaneous births in Brooklyn and Giengen are the best substantiated.

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