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Nixon and Mao Ping-Pong paddles
In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon slowly moved toward opening full diplomatic relations with Mao Tse-tung's People's Republic of China. He arranged a series of table-tennis matches, known as "Ping-Pong diplomacy," between American and Chinese players. Eventually Nixon traveled to China. These souvenir paddles, with images of Nixon and Mao, reflect the importance and visibility of the matches.
This early teddy bear was made by the Ideal Toy Company. The idea for the teddy bear came from a 1902 newspaper cartoon by Clifford Berryman. It showed President Theodore Roosevelt, a noted hunter and outdoorsman, refusing to shoot a captured bear cub. The story helped cement Roosevelt's image as a masculine but compassionate leader.


Peanut bank and Rough Rider doll
Souvenirs often mimic the personal features of the president or refer to well-known activities contributing to his fame or stature. The peanut bank acknowledges Jimmy Carter's background as a peanut farmer, as well as his toothy smile, and the doll depicts Theodore Roosevelt in his Rough Rider uniform from the 1898 Spanish-American War.
Johnson dart game
Not all toys and dolls are humorous or benign. Souvenirs can provide an opportunity to criticize the president or his policies. This dart game from 1967 reflects opposition to Lyndon Johnson's decision to escalate the war in Vietnam.
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National Museum of American History