Hunting. Mercy. Politics.
All are integral in the origin story of the common Teddy Bear.
In November 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt was bear hunting in Mississippi. The famed hunter and conservationist president had been invited by the state’s governor on the hunt, according to the National Park Service.
A legendary African American tracker, Holt Collier, cornered a 235-pound black bear and tied it to a tree. He then called the President over to shoot the animal. Roosevelt refused because it was “unsportsmanlike” and asked that someone else shoot the bear, according to Jim Sterba in his book “Nature Wars.”
Accounts of the story made the papers and political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted the event in the Washington Post. Rose Michtom, in New York, saw this and made “two toy bears to celebrate the president’s act.” Her husband put them in the window of their novelty store and they quickly sold.
The couple then wrote Roosevelt asking if they could sell the toy bears as “Teddy’s Bear” according to Sterba.
The president reportedly agreed and the toy bear became an instant hit.
“Suddenly a large and potentially dangerous animal, respected in the wild, had become a cuddly pillow toy,” Sterba writes.
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