People all over the world celebrate 10th February as “Teddy Day”. This day is all about gifting a “teddy bear”, arguably the best-known stuffed toy, to your loved ones. However, not many people know how the Teddy Bear came into being. Did you know that the stuffed toy owes its name to the 26th President of the USA, Theodore Roosevelt? The story goes back to 14th November, 1902, when Roosevelt was on a bear hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi. He was invited to this hunting trip by the Governor of Mississippi, Andrew H. Longino. Unlike other hunters in the group, Roosevelt had failed to locate even a single bear. Not wanting their boss to be embarrassed in front of others, Roosevelt’s assistants, led by Holt Collier, a born slave and former Confederate cavalryman, caught and tied a black bear to a willow tree. Thereafter, the assistants suggested that Roosevelt shoot the bear. However, Roosevelt found it to be extremely unsportsmanlike and refused to shoot the bear. This news was covered extensively by newspapers all across the country. The articles recounted how the big game hunter, Theodore Roosevelt had refused to shoot the bear.
Clifford Berryman, a political cartoonist, read one such article and decided to present the event in a satirical manner. His cartoon was published by the Washington Post on 16th November, 1902.
Cartoon by Clifford Berryman
When Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn candy shop owner, saw the cartoon, he was struck by an idea. With the help of his wife, Rose, Michtom created a stuffed toy bear and dedicated it to the president who had refused to shoot a bear. He named it “Teddy’s Bear”.
The Original Teddy’s Bear Created by Michtom
After Roosevelt gave his permission to use his name, Michtom started mass producing the toy bears. These stuffed bears became so popular that Michtom founded the Ideal Toy Company. To this day the Teddy Bear has worldwide popularity and its origin can be traced back to Theodore’s fateful hunting trip in 1902.
(Author is a well known historian)