President Theodore Roosevelt, could not have dreamt that his frustrating November bear would launch the birth of, arguably, the most famous toy in the world. TR was invited by the Mississippi Governor in 1902 to join a bear hunt. Uncharacteristically, avid hunter Roosevelt was skunked among the hunting guests for three days.
The guides, eager to help the president, tracked down an aged black bear with dogs that caught and attacked the old bruin. The bear was clubbed over the head and tied to a tree for the president to dispatch. Roosevelt’s hunting ethic was violated by that act and he refused to shoot the bear. The bear was put down at Roosevelt’s request and the story of the bear hit the Northern papers.
Washington Post Editorial cartoonist Clifford Berryman published a cartoon, on November 16, of TR refusing to shoot a cowering little bear cub. The issue captured the public’s attention, and many other Berryman bear cartoons followed.
Morris Michtom and his wife, Rose, ran a shop in New York and fashioned a plush little bear to commemorate the event. The public loved the animal, called “Teddy’s Bear.” Millions were sold.
“If I had shot that little fellow, I wouldn’t be able to look my boys in the face again. (To the Michtoms I said), “I don’t know what my name means to the bear business, but you’re welcome to use it!”
Dakota Datebook: Remembering Theodore Roosevelt is written and performed by Steve Stark. Funding provided by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.