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Teddy bear early 1900s - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-15 | by Tim Evanson
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Teddy bear early 1900s - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-15

An original "Teddy Bear" from 1903, manufactured by Benjamin Michton, son of the founder of the Ideal Toy Co. This bear was owned by Theodore Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit. Michton gave the bear to him in December 1963. The Roosevelts donated it to the Smithsonian a month later.


The name "Teddy Bear" comes from a political cartoon which made fun of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt went on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902. A small black bear was cornered, clubbed, and tied to a tree. The hunters offered to let Roosevelt shoot it, but he refused -- saying it was unsportsmanlike. Roosevelt did ask that the bear be killed to end its suffering.


On November 16, 1902, "Washington Post" political cartoonist Clifford Berryman drew an image of a disgusted Roosevelt refusing to kill a cute little bear. The cartoon was used to poke fun at Roosevelt's over-zealous hunting, fishing, and camping lifestyle.


Morris Michtom, owner of a New York City toy store, saw the cartoon. He created a small stuffed bear cub toy, and sent it to Roosevelt. He asked the president's permission to use the name "Teddy", and Roosevelt consented.


The toys were an immediate success. By 1906, ladies carried "Teddy bears" with them everywhere, children were photographed with them, and Roosevelt used one as a mascot in his re-election campaign. Michtom used his profits to found the Ideal Toy Co.


Early teddy bears were made to look like real bears, with snouts and beady eyes.


On display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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Taken on May 15, 2012