A Brief History of Teddy Bears

I am sure most people will agree that teddy bears are wonderful. Can you remember what your favourite toy was when you were growing up? I bet it was your teddy bear. The history of the teddy bear has seen many of us cherish these cuddly soft toys given to us when we were babies, and we cherished them throughout our childhood years.

However shabby and worn out these teddies became, we still took them to bed with us every night, packed them in our suitcases when we went on our holidays and perhaps you even gave it a name. Is your old bear still sitting on your bed now that you are grown up or is it tucked up snugly in a cupboard waiting to be passed on to the next generation?

So how long have they been around? 

They were invented almost simultaneously in both Germany and the United States. However, it was the United States that would give this iconic stuffed toy it’s name, through the offices of the 26th American president Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt.

In 1902 President Roosevelt went on a hunting trip in Mississippi, but was not able to make a kill. So his generous hosts caught a bear for him and tied it up, so that the President would be able to get a good, clean shot at it that he could not possibly miss.

 Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

President Roosevelt, however, flatly refused to shoot at an animal that was tied up. The scene was immortalised in a cartoon in the Washington Post that was drawn by Clifford Berryman. Some weeks later, Morris and Rose Michtom shopkeepers from Brooklyn, created a stuffed toy that they called ‘Teddy’s Bear’. ‘Teddy’s Bear’ was displayed in their shop window alongside a copy of the Washington Post cartoon. Americans went wild for this new toy, and the Michtoms founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company and went on to make millions of dollars from their teddy bear.

 

  Clifford Berryman's 1902 cartoon that lampooned T.R.'s bear hunt

Clifford Berryman's 1902 cartoon that lampooned T.R.'s bear hunt

Michael Dankwah