Many of us had a teddy bear when we were young. And—yes, you can admit it—many still have one. But few are aware of the toy’s origin.
In November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid sportsman, traveled to Mississippi on a hunting trip. During the trip, a small bear wandered into camp and was captured. The president took pity on the creature and refused to shoot it.
Word of the incident spread quickly, and Clifford Berryman immortalized the encounter in a cartoon that first appeared in The Washington Post. The cartoon soon appeared in newspapers across the country.
Morris Michtom, the owner of a small confectionary shop in Brooklyn and a loyal Roosevelt supporter, wrote to the president asking for permission to manufacture a toy bear designed by his wife and market it as “Teddy’s Bear.”
Roosevelt granted permission, and soon Michtom’s new business, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, was turning out thousands of bears. The teddy bear craze spread quickly. A number of companies began producing bears in a variety of styles, many of which bore a striking resemblance to Michtom’s original design. Though styles have changed over the years, teddy bears remain popular to this day.
Pictured at the top are Sisters Grace (front right) and Mary (front center) Fox and their friends posed with their favorite dolls and teddy bears, c. 1910. The teddy bear Grace is holding appears to be the one in our collection.