When I visited my mother last month I discovered her love for teddy bears. She had a whole basket of bears in a basket, some small ones and some bigger ones. I started wondering about the origin of Teddy the Bear.
I knew that the world over, children love the cuddle stuffed animals. And even adults liked them around for comfort and softness because of their friendly and almost human personalities.
When I went to see the doll museum in Hanau, they had exhibitions of early bears including the famous Steiff ® bears which are probably the most expensive toy bears around for their quality and life-likeness.
Before the production of toy animals came into high gear in the early 20th Century, most people had seen bears only in zoos unless they came across a life bear in the wild.
Where did the bear get the name Teddy?
In November of 1902, the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt went to Mississippi to settle a land dispute. The president was a skilled hunter; it was his favorite sport. On one of his trips in the wild, one of his man had cornered a bear and suggested for the president to shoot him. But Theodore Roosevelt didn’t like the idea of shooting a cornered bear. A political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman drew a cartoon of this event and published it under the title: Drawing the line in Mississippi. The picture indicates the boundary between the disagreeing states and the refusal of the president to shoot a frightened bear.
When Rose and Morris Michtom of Brooklyn New York read about the incident, it gave them an idea to create a stuffed bear to showcase in their grocery store. The Mitchtoms had come from Russia and thought of the appeal a bear would have on children. Well, it worked and they sold the bear and many thereafter.
After the Mitchtom’s request to the president to call the bear “Teddy” the name stuck, and they made their teddy bear production a full-time business.
In the meantime, in Germany lived a woman named Margaret Steiff who had polio. She could not walk and had to use a wheelchair.
She owned a clothing store and being a seamstress, she also made stuffed animals. At the end of the 19th century, she managed the production of soft Steiff® animals. Margaret’s nephew Richard was an artist, and brought back a drawing of a bear family when he visited the zoo in Stuttgart. Margaret created a toy bear from the picture. Being resourceful, Richard took the plush bear to the trade show in Leipzig, Germany. Nobody paid any attention to the bear, except for an American toy buyer. He ordered three thousand bears which started the mass production of Teddy Bears.
That was the beginning of the bear manufacturing and many factories starting popping up in cities all over the United States.
Why is the Teddy so popular? It is his appeal to all ages, young and old, boys and girls.
Who is your favorite bear character? Mine is Winnie-the-Pooh. I love his innocence and simplicity. Even my grand-children now love Winnie-the-Pooh in videos.
From a book: Teddy Bears by Arlene Erlbach