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Who Invented The Teddy Bear - A Fun Guide

Teddy bears? I love teddy bears!

Aren't they wonderful? And 2023 marks the 120th anniversary of the teddy bear! That’s 120 years of cuddly snuggly beary-ness to comfort us, warm our hearts and bring us joy.

But how do we know it’s the 120th anniversary of the teddy bear? And who invented the teddy bear in the first place?

Fear not my soft-toy-loving friends, find the answer to all of life’s questions below. Well. Not all of life’s questions. Just the ones related to the invention of the teddy bear. Sorry. That was misleading.

An original Michtom "Teddy's Bear" - Courtesy of Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Okay so, who invented the teddy bear?

The bright sparks we need to thank for inventing the snuggly bundle of fluff we now call the teddy bear are husband and wife, Morris and Rose Michtom.

Morris and Rose owned a candy shop in New York and were interested in a political cartoon they had seen in their newspaper in 1902. The cartoon inspired them to make a stuffed toy bear cub out of a scrap of velvet.

They called the bear they had made “Teddy’s Bear” and displayed it in their shop window. They were surprised when so many of their customers were interested in buying it.

Why did they call the bear “Teddy’s Bear”?

This is all down to the political cartoon they had spotted. The cartoon featured the President of the United States of America. At this time, the President was a chap called Theodore Roosevelt. Though many people called him Teddy instead of Theodore.

"Drawing the line in Mississippi" a cartoon by Clifford Berryman

So they named the bear after the president? Why? Did the president like bears?

Hold your cuddly horses. I’m getting to that bit!

President Roosevelt went on a hunting trip in Mississippi. Although many of his companions had had a successful day of hunting, Roosevelt hadn’t shot a single thing. His companions felt sorry for him and managed to corner a black bear and tie it to a tree. They offered up the bear to the President as an easy kill for him. But Roosevelt refused to kill the animal. He thought it would be “unsportsmanlike” to kill the bear when it couldn’t run away or defend itself.

News of the President’s hunting antics spread fast and soon political cartoonist Clifford Berryman drew a famous cartoon called “Drawing the Line in Mississippi”, showing Roosevelt refusing to shoot the bear. This was the cartoon that inspired Morris and Rose Michtom. They named their cuddly bear after the real-life bear that Teddy Roosevelt didn’t want to shoot; “Teddy’s Bear”.

Margarete Steiff with a cuddly bear - courtesy dierk schaefer

Wow! And did the President like his cuddly bear?

Everyone loved the President’s cuddly bear! “Teddy’s Bear” was so popular that Morris decided to write to the president to ask if he could use his name to sell more cuddly bears (after all, he didn’t want to offend the President!). Roosevelt said he was happy for the bear to be named after him. In fact, the President loved it so much that he adopted the bear as his mascot and would display a Michtom Bear at every White House function.

So that was the first ever Teddy Bear?

Yes, though amazingly a German company, created by Margarete Steiff, invented a stuffed bear at almost exactly the same time as Morris and Rose. Completely unaware of the “Teddy’s Bear” craze that had hit America, Margarete’s nephew Richard created a bear soft toy inspired by real-life bears at the zoo. The company’s first stuffed bear, called the Steiff Bear, debuted at a German toy fair in 1903. You can still buy Steiff Bears today!

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