The Teddy Bear Fad
During a hunting trip in 1902, the guides caught a bear, tied it to a tree, and invited Teddy Roosevelt to shoot it. Roosevelt said that would be unsporting and refused to shoot. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted the incident in one of his political cartoons, which inspired New York shopkeeper Morris Michtom and his wife Rose. They made a fabric stuffed bear and displayed it in the store window with a sign that named it “Teddy’s bear.” The bear drew so much attention that they began to make and sell the bears. A German toy company picked up on the idea and began marketing stuffed bears with jointed limbs, which became known as teddy bears.
The bears became wildly popular. On this date in 1907, the Hope Pioneer of Hope, North Dakota noted that social philosophers were somewhat puzzled by the ‘Teddy Bear’ fad raging in certain cities. The newspaper described women appearing in public places with teddy bears clasped in their arms. The article went on to say that women must have something on which to lavish their affections, and at least the teddy bears were less annoying than the small pet dogs many women carried.
The newspaper said social philosophers had not determined if this fondness for teddy bears by grown women was in some way a rebuke of the president’s fondness for hunting, and it speculated that women were reluctant to give up their dolls about the time they began to wear long dresses, and that the teddy bears offered them the chance to “love their dollies” without appearing childish.
The article also gave credit to the makers of the bears for recognizing an economic opportunity, but experts dismissed the bear as a short-lived fad. It was so closely tied to Teddy Roosevelt that they thought it would end when his presidency was over. But the American public looked on the teddy bear with great affection, and it became the bestselling toy in the country. The teddy bear then stormed the world. In 1910 it arrived in England where the number of teddy bears soon outnumbered that nation’s children. It also spread to Russia and Japan.
When the outbreak of World War I limited European imports to America, domestic manufactures of the bears got quite a boost. And even today, teddy bears remain one of the bestselling toys in the country.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Ask History. “Who invented the teddy bear?” "http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/who-invented-the-teddy-bear" http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/who-invented-the-teddy-bear Accessed 21 December, 2016.
Library of Congress. “Topics Chronicling America: The Teddy Bear.” "https://www.loc.gov/rr/news/topics/teddy.html" https://www.loc.gov/rr/news/topics/teddy.html Accessed 21 December, 2016.
Hope Pioneer. “The Teddy Bear Fad.” 24 January, 1907.