Did you know that President Theodore Roosevelt’s memory inspired the creation of the Teddy Bear? On November 14, 1902, Theodore Roosevelt set off on a bear hunting expedition near Onward, Mississippi. Theodore had been invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino, but unlike the other hunters, he had not found a single bear.
Roosevelt’s helpers cornered and tied a black bear to a willow tree under the direction of Holt Collier, a born slave and former Confederate cavalryman. Roosevelt was called, and they advised him to shoot it. This, in Roosevelt’s opinion, was incredibly unsportsmanlike, so he declined to shoot the bear. The word of this incident immediately went around the nation through newspaper articles. The president’s refusal to shoot a bear was described in the publications. Theodore Roosevelt, the big game hunter, was the president, not just any president!
T.R.’s bear hunt was parodied in a 1902 cartoon by Clifford Berryman.
Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman chose to jokingly parody the president’s hesitation to shoot the bear after reading the report. On November 16, 1902, the Washington Post ran a cartoon by Berryman. Brooklyn candy store owner Morris Michtom viewed the cartoon and got an idea. Michtom decided to make a stuffed bear and give it to the president who refused to shoot a bear. He and his wife Rose also manufactured stuffed animals. He referred to it as “Teddy’s Bear.”
The toy bears were mass produced when Michtom obtained Roosevelt’s permission to use his name, and they were so well received that he quickly established the Ideal Toy Company. Theodore’s fatal hunting trip in 1902 is where the Teddy Bear’s origins may be traced. The Teddy Bear is still very popular today.