In the spring of 1902, the United Mine Workers went on a strike demanding more pay, shorter hours, and safer working conditions. Around 150,000 miners walked off the job and production was at a standstill, threatening to cause a nationwide shortage of coal.
The owners refused to negotiate with the union, and it seemed that the strike seemed endless. Because of the potentially serious public effects of the coal shortage, President Theodore Roosevelt decided to intervene. After months of negotiations, in October, they finally agreed to a deal.
It was now time for President Roosevelt to take a vacation, so he accepted the invitation of the Governor of Mississippi, Andrew H. Longino, for a bear-hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi. They set up a camp in the lowlands with trappers, horses, supplies, 50 hunting dogs, and a few journalists.
However, Roosevelt and his group had no luck tracking a bear on the first day. But eventually, the group managed to track down a 235-pound black bear. They surrounded the bear, tied it to a tree, and encouraged the President to kill it. When Roosevelt saw the helpless bear, he reportedly said, “I’ve hunted game all over America, and I’m proud to be a hunter. But I couldn’t be proud of myself if I shot an old, tired, worn out bear that was tied to a tree.”
He refused to kill the bear, declaring the behavior of the other hunters as “unsportsmanlike.” The story caught the attention of the journalists, and soon it made headlines throughout the country.
The headline of the Washington Post on November 15th, 1902 was: “PRESIDENT CALLED AFTER THE BEAST HAD BEEN LASSOED, BUT HE REFUSED TO MAKE AN UNSPORTSMANLIKE SHOT.” Cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman, from the Washington Post, even drew a political cartoon about the incident which was published in the newspaper on November 17th, 1902.
New York store owner Morris Michtom saw the cartoon and was inspired to create a stuffed toy bear and dedicate it to President Roosevelt. Reportedly, he received personal approval from the President himself who allowed him to use his nickname “Teddy” for the bear.
“Teddy’s Bear,” as it was named at first, was an instant success and Michtom even left the candy business and focused only on the manufacture of stuffed bears.
In fact, Teddy’s bear became so popular that Roosevelt adopted it as the symbol of the Republican Party for the 1904 election.
Even though it’s been more than a century since Michtom started manufacturing the “Teddy Bear,” it seems that it has never declined in popularity. As the years went by, this toy has become one of the trademarks of the American culture.