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The Teddy Bear Was Invented to Honor Theodore Roosevelt

Madeline Hiltz
(Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images and Jeff Overs/ Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Bettmann/ Getty Images and Jeff Overs/ Getty Images)

Teddy Bears are a common stuffed animal for children, but did you know that this plush toy has a strange connection to the 26th President of the United States? The story came about during a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902.

Theodore Roosevelt and his dogs
Theodore Roosevelt on his farm with his dogs, 1905. (Photo Credit: Frederic Lewis/ Getty Images)

On November 14, 1902, Teddy Roosevelt was on a bear hunting trip near Onward, Mississippi, with Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. Everyone in the hunting group except for the president had located a bear.

Worried that the president, who was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, would be embarrassed, Roosevelt’s assistants cornered and tied a black bear to a willow tree. They then summoned Roosevelt to the tree and suggested he shoot the bear. When he saw this poor creature tied up to the tree, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear, viewing this as cheating. The president thought that it was extremely unsportsmanlike to kill a defenseless animal.

Clifford Berryman's political cartoon
Political cartoon by Clifford Berryman that depicts Theodore Roosevelt’s bear hunting trip in Mississippi, 1902. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons via Public Domain)

This event garnered national attention soon after the hunting trip wrapped up. The situation became the topic of a political cartoon that appeared in The Washington Post.  Clifford Berryman drew the bear in this cartoon to appear small and cute to the audience.

After seeing the political cartoon depicting Roosevelt’s mercy, Brooklyn shopkeeper Morris Michtom and his wife Rose created a stuffed bear. They displayed it in their store window with a sign labeled “Teddy’s Bear.” This bear soon garnered attention from the public. Supposedly, Michtom sent a bear to Roosevelt and got permission from the president to use his name for their new toy.

Early Teddy Bear
Still life of a ‘Teddy’ Bear sitting with its tag describing the origin of the toy and US president Theodore Roosevelt, circa 1950s. (Photo Credit: Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)

More from us: Alice Roosevelt: The First Daughter Who Buried A Voodoo Doll In The Yard

Early teddy bears were made to look somewhat realistic, with small eyes and extended snouts. Now, most teddy bears have more babylike features to emphasize their cuteness. To this day, the adorable bears continue to be popular worldwide.

Madeline Hiltz

Maddy Hiltz is someone who loves all things history. She received her Bachelors of Arts in history and her Master’s of Arts degree in history both from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Her thesis examined menstrual education in Victorian England. She is passionate about Princess Diana, the Titanic, the Romanovs, and Egypt amongst other things.

In her spare time, Maddy loves playing volleyball, running, walking, and biking, although when she wants to be lazy she loves to read a good thriller. She loves spending quality time with her friends, family, and puppy Luna!