Teddy Bear



This was the headline of the Washington Post on November 15, 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a 235-pound black bear that had been tied to a tree. When encouraged to shoot it, the President is rumored to have 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."

A famous political cartoonist for the Washington Star, Clifford Berryman, picked up on the President's refusal to shoot the bear, and used it as a metaphor for Roosevelt's indecision over a Mississippi boundary dispute. Berryman's cartoon soon became well known throughout the United States and inspired Brooklyn candy store owners Rose and Morris Michtom to make the first stuffed bear toy, which they appropriately named Theodore Roosevelt. Before making additional bears, Morris Michtom wrote to Roosevelt to ask his permission to make a small bear cub and call it "Teddy's Bear." His son, Benjamin Michtom, said that although Roosevelt agreed to lend his name to the new invention he doubted it would ever amount to much in the toy business. In 1903, the Ideal Toy Company was born, soon to become a multimillion-dollar business. By 1908, the bear had become such a popular toy that a Michigan minister warned that replacing dolls with toy bears would destroy the maternal instincts in little girls.

In 1963, Benjamin Michtom, at that time the president of the Ideal Toy Company, decided that it would be appropriate to celebrate the Teddy Bear's 60th birthday. He first contacted Mrs. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, to offer her one of the original Teddy Bears if she would pose with it. Mrs. Longworth reportedly exclaimed, "I don't want it." The pitchman for the Ideal Toy Company asked, "For goodness sakes, why not?"

Mrs. Longworth replied, "What does a 79-year-old doll want with a 60-year-old bear?" Not to be discouraged, Mr. Mitchom contacted Mr. Kermit Roosevelt, a grandson of T.R. and asked his children to pose with it. Mitchom said he would give the bear to him, with the understanding that it would later be given to the Smithsonian Institution. After the photo shoot, Kermit Roosevelt's children, Mark and Anne Roosevelt, decided they couldn't part with the bear and actually hid it from their parents. A letter from Mrs. Roosevelt to Mr. Michtom said, "I was about to get in touch with the Smithsonian about presenting them with the original bear when the children decided they didn't want to part with it yet." Eventually, however, the children changed their minds, and the bear was given to the Smithsonian in January 1964.

Date Made: ca 1903

Inspired By: Roosevelt, TheodoreMaker: Ideal Toy Company

Depicted: BearsSubject: Toys


See more items in: Political and Military History: Political History, Campaign Collection, Government, Politics, and Reform, Family & Social Life, National Treasures exhibit

Exhibition: American Presidency

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Related Web Publication: http://americanhistory.si.edu/treasures

Related Publication: Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History, National Museum of American History. Treasures of American History online exhibition

Credit Line: Mr. and Mrs. Kermit Roosevelt

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PL.252493.02Catalog Number: 252493.02Accession Number: 252493

Object Name: animal, stuffedObject Type: toys

Measurements: overall: 24 in; 60.96 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a2-e458-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_491375

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