A brief biography of the Teddy Bear
Theodore Roosevelt, is famous for his life as a rough-rider and for being the 26th president of the United States, but he also is the namesake of the Teddy Bear. In 1902 the president went bear hunting in Mississippi. The president had been unable to shoot a bear, so members of his party caught a large female bear and tied it to a tree, offering it to the president. The president refused, and the event was drawn by Clifford Berryman for the Washington Post (one version of this is shown at left). The cartoon bear became very popular, and when Rose and Morris Michtom made a bear toy to put in the window of their candy shop.
The Michtom's started the Ideal Toy Company after their bears took off, but they were not the only company to make Teddy Bears. In 1902, Richard Steiff designed a string jointed bear based on the bears he saw at the Stuttgart Zoo. Their bear, known as "Bear 55 PB" did not sell at the 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair until a buyer from the United States saw them and fell in love! He bought 3000, beginning Steiff's long success with Teddy Bears.
Clifford Berryman often drew his little bear with Teddy Roosevelt, and he called it the "Roosevelt Bear", while President Roosevelt called the bear the "Berryman Bear"! There are two stories of how the bear came to be known as Teddy Bear, although there is no confirmation of either. The first story is that the Michtom's wrote a letter to President Roosevelt asking his permission to christen the new toy bear "Teddy Bear" in memory of the hunting trip. The president is said to have given his blessing, adding that he did not know how his name could help the stuffed animal business.
The other legend is that at President Roosevelt's daughter Alice's wedding, Steiff bears decorated the tables, many dressed as hunters and fishermen. When a guest asked what breed of bear they were, a guest spoke up and said, "Why, they're Teddy Bears, of course".
More than just a toy
Teddy bears were considered children's toys until actor Peter Bull wrote "The Teddy Bear Book" about people's childhood bears. The book was very popular and made it acceptable for grown-ups to love teddy bears, and teddy bear collecting became very popular. Today, adults and children love Teddy Bears, whether they are inexpensive plush bears made by one of the popular toymakers, or exclusive one-of-a-kind made by Bear Artists from mohair, alpaca or even real fur.
For more information about the history of the Teddy Bear, the following sites and books offer a wealth of information:
"The Teddy Bear Men 2nd Edition: Theodore Roosevelt & Clifford Berryman", by Linda Mullins.