Historically Yours : Roosevelt and the Teddy Bear


The Teddy Bear has been the symbol of love and comfort for children and adults worldwide since 1907. Where did the name come from and how did it happen? The extremely popular president Teddy Roosevelt, a great conservationist, loved hunting. In November 1902, he traveled to Mississippi to settle a boundary dispute with Louisiana, as both claimed a common wilderness area. He hoped to squeeze in a bear hunt in the five-day trip. The reporters and photographers wired back reports daily on the progress of the boundary dispute and the bear hunt. The trip was a rousing success boundary-wise, but as a great hunter, it looked as if he would leave without a trophy. On his last day, he rode into a clearing where he saw a bear cub tied to a tree. His aides urged him to shoot the bear cub. Gun raised, he then lowered it down and ordered the aides to release the cub. Reporters asked him why he didn’t shoot the cub. He answered: “I draw the line. If I had shot that little fellow, I couldn’t look my sons in the face again.” He was a great admirer of sportsmanlike behavior. A foremost cartoonist of the day was on the trip and sketched the dramatic scene, calling it “Drawing the line.” The cartoon was shown nationwide, as it showed Roosevelt dressed in Swashbuckling hunting gear, sparing the cub’s life. Readers went wild laughing at the bear that got away.

In the meantime, Morris Michtom, owner of a Brooklyn candy store, followed the newspaper account every day of the great bear hunt, to see if Roosevelt got his bear. After seeing the cartoon, he suggested to his wife Rose that she make a toy bear. She did it beautifully and they put it in their window with mountains of chocolates, with the bear on top, named “Teddy Bear.” People loved it and they came every day. But Michtom worried – what if the president found out about it and thought it disrespectful. He wrote to the president for approval. Pres. Roosevelt enjoyed a good laugh and approved it. Michtom started to produce teddy bears, which became so popular that he stopped selling candy just to produce teddy bears. One of the original Teddy Bears is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Teddy Bear mania swept the nation. With most fads, the rage fades, but the Teddy Bear has remained the most popular stuffed toy of all time. You may ask about the Michtom’s candy store. They changed their business name and became THE IDEAL TOY CO. They probably became extremely wealthy and now, you have heard the rest of the story.

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