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This Childhood Favorite Toy Was Named After a US President

And it wasn’t after Trump

Popular Cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On November 14, 1902, President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt went on a bear hunt in Mississippi. But for days, Roosevelt wasn’t having any luck locating a single bear, unlike other hunters in the group. On the fifth and last day of the hunt, his assistants, led by Holt Collier, tracked down a black bear. And in an attempt to redeem the president’s reputation, they wrestled it down with the help of hounds, cornered it, and tied it to a willow tree for the president to shoot.

But when they called over president Roosevelt to shoot the bear, Roosevelt — an avid outdoorsman and big game hunter — refused to shoot the animal. He said it was unsportsmanlike to kill a defenseless animal and refused to shoot the bear.

News of the event spread like wildfire across the country, and leading cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, portrayed it in a popular cartoon in the Washington Post.

The cartoon inspired Brooklyn-based candy shop owners, Morris Michtom and Rose, to make a stuffed toy bear and display it with a sign, “Teddy’s bear,” in their store window. The bear attracted many customers’ interest, so the Michtoms sent Roosevelt the original bear and asked for his permission to use his name. Roosevelt reportedly told the Mitchoms he doubts his name would help in sales, and they were free to use it.

The Mitchoms went on to found the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company which became the largest doll-making company in the United States, and Teddy’s Bear became known to the world as the Teddy Bear.

Bear formerly owned by Kermit Roosevelt, thought to be made by Michtom in the early 1900s; Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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