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Visit these other humorous sites by Marjorie Dorfman:

Eat, Drink and
Really Be Merry


Home Is Where
the Dirt Is


Middle Age
and Other Mistakes

Don't Tech Me In

What's New, Emu?

Laughing Matters Ink

I Was Absent


Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003.
All rights reserved.
teddy bearTeddy Bares All: The Naked Truth about America’s Love Affair with the Teddy Bear
by Marjorie Dorfman

Why is the teddy bear so beloved in America today? Learn about its interesting past and even more promising future.


Baby, let me be your lovin’ teddy bear,
Put a chain around my neck and lead me anywhere,
Oh, let me be your teddy bear.
 
. . . Elvis Presley, with the help of others, 1957

A poor sense of timing has followed me relentlessly all the years of my life. It is a particular talent that is neither divinely inherited nor appreciated. Even though I am punctual to a fault, my connection with the universe never ceases to put me "in the know" slightly after the fact. (I probably didn’t even know I was born until after it happened! And they say the father is the last to know!) This sense or perhaps lack thereof, explains my inspiration to write an article about the teddy bear 101 years after it burst upon the American cultural scene. And burst it did, when our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, visited the southern United States back in November, 1902 to help settle a border dispute between Mississippi and Louisiana.

Roosevelt and bearsAs the story goes and it is a rather tall one, during a bear hunting excursion one of Roosevelt’s companions captured a cub, tied it to a tree and invited the President to finish it off. The big game President couldn’t bring himself to kill the little guy. One witness to the incident was Clifford Berryman, who worked for the Washington Post. He captured the scene with a cartoon called: "Drawing the Line in Mississippi." It depicted Roosevelt’s dual accomplishments on the trip; negotiating border disputes and protecting wild life. The cartoon was published in newspapers across the country and the story caught on quickly. Soon Teddy’s Bear, as it came to be known by its first manufacturers, gained popularity with Americans of all ages and was featured in all cartoons depicting the president.

The small cub inspired Russian immigrants, Morris and Rose Michtom to create a bear in honor of the President's noble actions. Well aware of the marketability of a good and well-known deed, they displayed two toy bears in the window of their novelty store in Brooklyn, New York. Rose, who used plush stuffed excelsior and shoe buttons for eyes, made both. When they sold quickly, Michtom sent Roosevelt a bear and received permission from the President himself to call them Teddy’s Bear. They were a tremendous success. As demand for them increased, Michtom, with the help of a wholesale firm called Butler Brothers, founded the first bear manufacturing company in the United States, The Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, or actually across the Atlantic Ocean in Giengen, Germany, the Steiff Company, which had been making toys since 1880, was producing its jointed bear. Richard Steiff, nephew of the company’s owner and former art student, had the idea to make a toy bear standing upright after seeing performing bears at a touring American circus. He often visited the Stuttgart Zoo to sketch bears and cubs for the new design. In 1902, the same year the Michtoms made Teddy’s Bear, the Steiff firm developed a prototype of a toy based on Richard’s drawings. Though both the Mictoms and the Steiffs were working on bear toys simultaneously, neither knew about the other’s creation. In truth, they were different; the Michtom’s creation resembled the wide eyed cub in Berryman’s cartoon, while the Steiff bear, with its humped back and long snout, looked more like a real cub.

teddy bear In March 1903 at the Leipzig Toy Fair, the Steiff Company introduced its jointed bear. Europeans ignored it, but an American toy buyer who was aware of the growing popularity of Teddy’s Bears in The United States, ordered 3,000. By the end of the year this order rose to 12,000. While other stories have been told regarding the origins of this wonderful toy, the simultaneous births in Brooklyn and Germany are the best substantiated. Teddy bear without the 's' first appeared in the October 1906 issue of Playthings Magazine. It soon became the accepted term. Steiff went on to become the crème de la crème of the teddy bear business, a status reflected in their steep prices today.

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books


Don't miss this excellent book:
The Legend of The Teddy Bear

The Legend of The Teddy Bear

A book that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear, focussing on the origins of America's favorite stuffed toy.


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humor pop culture
Culture is one thing and varnish another
R.W. Emerson, Journals, 1868


In the room, the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo
T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock


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