Every year, over 50 million teddy bears are given as gifts in the United States. It’s clear that people adore these fluffy companions.
However, many are unaware of their origin and how they acquired their name. If you find yourself among this group, read on to uncover the captivating history of the teddy bear below.
It All Began with a President and a Hunting Expedition
You might be surprised to discover that the beloved teddy bear owes its name to President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.
During a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902, the 26th President of the United States refused to shoot a bear that guides had clubbed and tied to a tree. Roosevelt declined, believing it would be unsportsmanlike to kill an animal unable to defend itself.
A Cartoon Followed Shortly After
It didn’t take long for news of the incident to spread across the nation. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman swiftly created a cartoon illustrating his take on the events, titled “Drawing the Line in Mississippi.” Some argue that the image carried a double entendre, possibly commenting on how he handled the border dispute between Louisiana and Mississippi.
Then, a Toy Bear Was Born
Inspired by Berryman’s cartoon, Morris and Rose Michtom decided to create a stuffed bear in honor of Roosevelt. They proudly displayed it in the window of their Brooklyn, New York shop, affectionately naming it “Teddy’s Bear.” The Michtoms were overjoyed by the immediate success of this new toy. They eventually wrote to the president, seeking his permission to use his name. With his approval, they founded their own company, the Ideal Toy Company, which specialized in manufacturing teddy bears and a variety of other toys.
Followed by a Global Phenomenon
While the Michtoms were diligently crafting their teddy bears, German seamstress Margarete Steiff was developing her unique version. Steiff’s nephew, Richard, played a key role in designing a plush bear in 1902, drawing inspiration from bears he had observed and sketched at a local zoo.
A year later, a mohair bear featuring jointed limbs made its grand debut at a German toy fair. Shortly after its introduction, a buyer working for a U.S. toy company placed a substantial order, catapulting Steiff Bears (officially known as teddy bears since 1906) to instant popularity. This surge in demand sparked an international craze for these stuffed bears, leading many other toy companies to start producing their own.
Teddy Bears of Today
Today, teddy bears have become fixtures in many children’s bedrooms, and you might be surprised to learn that they’ve also found a place in the rooms of countless adults. In fact, one survey of 2,000 adults revealed that a remarkable 56 percent of them still cherish their favorite teddy bear or another stuffed animal from their childhood!