Teddy Bears in History

Teddy Bears are one of the most popular children’s toys around the world. They are cute and cuddly, that makes us love them.  Today the teddy bear is more than simply a child’s toy, many adults collect teddy bears for both  sentimental reasons and also as financial investment.

The first stuffed Teddy Bear appeared in German toy company Gebrüder  Sussenguth’s catalogue in 1894.  Stuffed animals, also known as plush animals, gained worldwide popularity after emerging from Germany. The most famous is the teddy bear. Stuffed animals were sold commercially for the first time in 1880. While working as a self-employed seamstress, Margarete Steiff of Germany fashioned a pincushion shaped like an elephant as a gift to her family and friends. After discovering how much the children liked the elephants, she started the Steiff company in 1980 and sold them as toys. Six years later, 5,000 elephants had been sold. As of 2011, the Steiff company makes more than 1 million stuffed animals every year.

German toy manufacturer Gebruder Sussenguth was the first company to sell stuffed Teddy Bears in 1894, but the first "teddy" bear was sold in 1903. As the legend has it, Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear cub during a hunting trip. The story made national news and inspired a cartoon in "The Washington Post" by Clifford Berryman. Rose Michtom, a Russian immigrant living in America, created a bear and named it "Teddy" with the president's blessings. "I don't think my name is likely to be worth much in the toy bear business, but you are welcome to use it," he wrote. Michtoms’ bears for were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co., which still exists today.

Technological and social change after World War II changed the face of the soft toy industry.  Many traditional manufacturers ceased trading in cheap, mass-produced soft toys from the Far East.  By the end of the 1960s the traditional Teddy Bear appeared doomed.  Instead it enjoyed an unexpected renaissance which began in 1969, when ‘arctophile’ (bear collector) Peter Bull published a book about his hobby.  Suddenly old-fashioned teddy bears were desirable objects again. An adult collectors’ market for old bears and teddy bear ephemera began to emerge while a new area of collecting was created by ‘bear artists’ making high quality, hand crafted bears in the traditional manner. In 1985 Christie’s held the first ever auction devoted to old teddy bears and the Teddy Bear Artists Guild was founded in the USA.  100 years on, teddy bears, old and young, find themselves more popular than ever.

Teddy Bears and Theodore Roosevelt Connection

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States is famous for his presidential term but also because of Teddy Bears. In 1902 President Roosevelt went to on a hunting expedition in MIssissippi. It was a failure expedition. The hosts who are very eager to please the president, they caught a bear cub for the president to shoot. The president did not do it and it became a national news. Clifford Berryman of the Washington Post Newspaper drew a cartoon depicting the incident.

The cartoon, drawn by Clifford Berryman and titled "Drawing the Line in Mississippi," showed President Theodore Roosevelt refusing to shoot a baby bear. According to this often told tale, Roosevelt had traveled to Mississippi to help settle a border dispute between that state and Louisiana, and his hosts, wanting to please this avid hunter, took him bear hunting. The hunting was so poor that someone finally captured a bear and invited Roosevelt to shoot. Roosevelt's refusal to fire at such a helpless target inspired Berryman to draw his cartoon with its play on the two ways Roosevelt was drawing a line—settling a border dispute and refusing to shoot a captive animal.

The cartoon appeared in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It caused an immediate sensation. Apparently this cartoon even inspired Morris and Rose Michtom of Brooklyn, New York, to make a bear in honor of the president's actions. In 1903, Morris Michton, a Russian saw the cartoon. He and his wife Rose made bear stuffed toy. He wrote to the president and asked his permission to name it Teddy, after his name Theodore Roosevelt. So in their novelty store in Brooklyn, New York, they displayed the bear, alongside the cartoon and with the name "Teddy's bear." The Michtoms’ bear looked sweet and innocent, different than the previous toy bears.  Their bear made a hit with the buying public. The demand was so strong that the Michtoms, with the help of a wholesaler Butler Brothers, founded the first teddy bear manufacturer in the United States, the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

At the same time, in Germany the Steiff firm, unaware of Michtom's bear, produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff's designs. They exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903 and exported 3000 to the United States.

By 1906 manufacturers other than Michtom and Steiff had joined in and the craze for Teddy Bears was such that ladies carried them everywhere, children were photographed with them, and  Roosevelt used one as a mascot in his bid for re-election.

Today, Theodore Roosevelt Association is keeping the spirit alive with teddy bears for kids program. The members of the Theodore Roosevelt Association have found a way to bring some comfort, joy and smiles into the hearts of children. The "Teddy's Bears for Kids" Program distributes teddy bears to hospitalized children. Since 1986 the Theodore Roosevelt Association
has given over 74,000 Teddys Bears to hospitalized children over 50 hospitals across the US.

Teddy Bear Museums In USA

Teddy Bear Castle Museum, 431 Broad Street, Nevada City, California 95959

Teddy Bear Museum of Naples, 2511 Pine Ridge Road, Naples, Florida

Children's Museum of Indianapolis, P.O. Box 3000, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Carrousel Shop and Museum,505 West Broad Street, Chesaning, Michigan 48616

New York

Aunt Len's Doll and Toy Museum, 6 Hamilton Terrace, New York, New York 10031

Thoedores Roosevelt Birthplace, 28 East 20th Street, New York, New York, 10003

Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, 1 Mathatten Square, Rochester, New York, 14607


Merritt's Museum of Childhood, Route 422, Douglassville, Pennsylvania 19518