A simple hunting trip in November 1902 gave birth to one of the most loved toys of children and adults around the world, the Teddy Bear.
President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was invited by then Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino to a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi. After a long and tiring day, President Teddy was not able to kill one, though most of the other hunters had already killed an animal. The President’s attendants decided to club and tie an American Black Bear and presented it as a sitting target for the president. Thinking that it would be unfair to the other hunters, he refused, uttering the words ‘Spare the bear! I will not shoot a tethered animal.’ He then instructed his aides to just kill the bear and put it out of its misery. A political cartoon regarding this incident was created by Clifford Berryman and was published in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902, it was entitled “Drawing the Line in Mississippi”. Later improvements on the drawing showed the bear as a cute and cuddly cub instead of a huge and fierce animal.
Berryman’s cartoon with the little cub circulated around United States. A candy shop owner and stuffed toy maker, Morris Michtom saw the picture and it inspired him to create little stuffed bears. He sent one to President Roosevelt and asked permission to name his creation after him. The president readily agreed, thus “Teddy’s Bear” was born.
Teddy’s Bear was a big hit. And so the first manufacturer was founded in the United States; Ideal Novelty and Toy Company was born out of the small candy and stuffed toy business of Morris and Rose Michtom. By the same time that Teddy’s Bear was making waves in the United States, a German company made their own version of a stuffed bear, adding to the then popularity of the stuffed animal. Mass production began. In 1906, Teddy’s Bear fever hit the United States; children and adults alike were not spared. Everyone wants their photo taken with their Teddy’s Bear in hand. President Roosevelt even used it as a mascot in his re-election bid. In October of 1906, “Teddy bear,” without the apostrophe and the ‘s’, became the accepted term for this cuddly toy.
In the outbreak of World War II, the craze for the lovable animal declined. Mass production were stopped, resources were used in the effort to win the war instead of producing the little animal. Many production companies closed and never reopened.
Just like the President in which its name was taken, this lovable stuffed animal’s journey has endured the test of time and made its mark in history. In 1969, an actor’s expression of love and belief in the teddy bear’s role in the emotional life of an adult has triggered the comeback of the popular stuffed animal. British Actor Peter Bull, wrote a book “Bear with Me”, later renamed The Teddy Bear Book, has re-awakened the peoples love for the little bear. His book sparked an emotion among adults, and they started seeing the teddy bear not just as a toy, but as a collectible item, something that they have held on to as kids and can keep as adults.
The people’s love for the toy bear was further fuelled by an American doll maker, Beverly Port. In 1974, she created shows featuring the bears and presented it to the United Federation of Doll Club. Having seen what she did, the world again was caught in the magical spell of the little cuddly bear. This started the trend of collecting these stuffed animals. Teddy bear collection has greatly increased the appreciation and price of old and antique teddy bears. Many were inspired to create their own version selling them to collectors.
Today, the world is still experiencing the craze that started with that one hunting trip in Mississippi. Millions of bear collectors are very willing to spend their money on this lovable stuffed animal. More than 100 years after it was first introduced, the teddy bear still survives. The world’s love affair with this stuffed animal will continue on to the next generation.
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