The Teddy Bear


Origin of the Name
There are two conflicting claims as to the origin of the name 'Teddy'. One is that In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt was on a hunting trip in Mississippi. As reported in the Washington Post, the presidential hunting party. trailed and lassoed a lean, black bear, then tied it to a tree. The president was summoned, but when he arrived on the scene he refused to shoot the tied and exhausted bear, considering it to be unsportsmanlike.

The following day, November 16, Clifford Berryman, Washington Post editorial cartoonist, immortalized the incident as part of a front-page cartoon montage. Berryman pictured Roosevelt, his gun before him with the butt resting on the ground and his back to the animal, gesturing his refusal to take the trophy shot. Written across the lower part of the cartoon were the words "Drawing the Line in Mississippi," which coupled the hunting incident to a political dispute.

The cartoon drew immediate attention. In Brooklyn, NY, shopkeeper Morris Michtom displayed 2 toy bears in the window of his Stationery and novelty store. The bears had been made by his wife, Rose from plush stuffed excelsior and finished with black shoe button eyes. Michtom recognized the immediate popularity of the new toy, requested and received permission from Roosevelt himself to call them "Teddy's Bears."

Teddy Bear, Teddy Roosevelt,

The little stuffed bears were a success. As demand for them increased, Michtom moved his business to a loft, under the name of the Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation

The second claim is that Richard Steiff, the nephew of Margarete Steiff and an established German toy-maker, designed the first jointed bear and exhibited it at the 1903 Leipzig Fair. Some of these bears were sent to America and used to decorate the tables at a White House reception. When the President was asked what species of bear it was, someone suggested it was a new species called 'Teddy'!


  Instant success
Teddy was an instant success, a new toy, a creature to be played with, talked to, cuddled and loved. He or she could sit, turn its head, move its arms and legs and, in many cases, growl! Each was covered with soft mohair in a variety of colours from silvery white to black, and stuffed with long thin strips of lime-wood or pine. Their eyes were black shoe or boot buttons attached by a long wire, and their paws were covered with felt. After about 1935 they were stuffed with kapok.

Many countries manufactured them. In America Morris Michtom founded the Ideal Toy Company, and others followed - Columbia, Commonwealth Toy and Novelty, Harman and Knickerbocker. In Britain, the firms of Farnell, Merrythought, Deans, Chad Valley, Pedigree, Norah Wellings, and Ealon Toys. In Germany, Bing, Bruin, Hermann, Schuco, Steiff, and Sussenguth.

Continuing popularity
The wave of popularity which the teddy bear still enjoys, owes much to the actor Peter Bull, a larger than life character who started with a small collection of bears. He toured the States, holding Teddy Bear picnics. People would bequeath him their bears. One of his bears, first named Delicatessen (because he found him sitting on the shelf of a delicatessen shop) became the famous bear of Sebastian Flyte in the television film Brideshead Revisited, renamed Aloysius.

Record prices
In 1982, the first ever auction of teddy bears was held at Sotheby's in London. The press coverage of this sale caused waves of collecting fever throughout the world, and each successive auction saw higher and higher prices, until the present world record of £110,000 which was paid for 'Teddy Girl' at a sale at Christie's South Kensington. This bear was the lifelong companion of the world's most famous bear collector, the late Colonel 'Bob' Henderson (pictured, left). 'Teddy Girl' now resides in a Japanese museum.

Teddy bear lovers and collectors are known as 'Arctophiles', and their numbers, of all ages and all nationalities, are continually increasing


  The cartoon at the top of this page is a later version of the Barryman cartoon as it appeared in The Washington Star.