Many people today can admit to owning at least one or several teddy bears at some point in their childhood. Teddy bears have tagged along with children on vacations, wartime evacuations and those dreaded trips to the doctor, providing comfort and quiet companionship. But teddy bears only became popular fairly recently, originating in 1902.
It started with the former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, as he embarked on a hunting trip with several others. Some of the hunters had managed to beat and tie a black bear to a tree and requested that President Roosevelt shoot it. Taking pity upon the cornered and hurt creature, Roosevelt ordered that it should not be killed to save it from additional unnecessary pain. In the weeks to follow, Roosevelt became renowned for his benevolent actions. After a cartoonist immortalized the story in a newspaper, a toy manufacturer named Morris Michtom made a special request of the President. Inspired by the story, he had created a small, cute toy bear and asked if he could name it after Roosevelt. With permission granted, Michtom started selling his bears bearing the name, “Teddy’s Bear”. The bears became an overnight success!
By a couple of years later, there were a number of other toy companies who wanted a piece of this hot new toy market. They started churning out their own spin on Teddy’s bear. These toy bears became so popular that it was imperative for children to own them and even fashionable ladies would carry them around. While the bears were originally modeled to resemble real bears, later versions were made to look cuter, resembling the models that we see in stores today. By the end of the century, the teddy bear industry was skyrocketing. Teddy bears were not only limited to toy stores, but they were appearing in literature and popular culture too. Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh and The Care Bears are just some examples of teddy bears that made it into books and television. Today teddy bears make up a billion dollar industry, with dedicated museums, festivals, collectors and specialized stores around the world. While they are still popular as children’s toys, they are also sometimes given as gifts between couples on Valentine’s Day and other festive occasions. Browse through the resources below to learn more about the origins of the lovable teddy bear and its significance today.