The Origins of The Teddy Bear

Jul 12th, 2014 | By | Category: Antiques Interest
Teddy Bears

Soft Teddy Bears

The soft bear we know as the Teddy Bear hales from the Edwardian period as earlier bear toys were mainly mechanical and very true to the breed in look and style.

There is much debate about the origins of the phrase ‘Teddy Bear’, but there is no doubt that they are named after Pesident Theodore Roosevelt.  One story, and likely  the most commonly known, is that, in 1902, whilst on a hunting trip in Mississippi, the President refused to shoot a trapped bear cub.  This act was immortalised in the cartoon in the Washington Post by Clifford Berryman, captioned ‘Drawing The Line’ (seen below)

It was a Russian immigrant names Morris Mitchom, who first displayed the soft, jointed bear, crafted by his wife, in his sweet shop window, and he asked the President if he could call it ‘Teddy’s Bear’ after he’d seen the cartoon by Berryman.

Although Steiff is the most commonly known of the soft bear manufacturers, Mitchom’s bear was produced in large quantities by his newly founded company, Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation.

The second story about the events that led to the bears being name ‘Teddy Bears’ results from a wedding dinner for the President’s daughter in 1906.  The tables were decorated with Steiff bears and a guest referred to them as being ‘Teddy’s Bears’, and Steiff claim this is the origin of the use of the phrase ‘Teddy Bear’.

Whichever story is true there is no doubt that the teddy bear has become the world’s most owned and most loved toy, bought by both children and adults, either as a companion or plaything, or in some cases by avid collectors.

Drawing the line

Cartoon by Clifford Berryman depicting Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a bear cub.

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