The Bear-ginning

From Grizzly to Cuddly?


Now we know teddy bears are so important to us because of the impact they have in our early life, which you can read more about in this post. But we never got to speaking about where these iconic and comforting figures come from, because they certainly did not appear overnight. Who made the first teddy bear? Why? And where did we get the idea of cute, instead of deadly bears? Read on to find out! 

Now time for a short history lesson. Back in the spring of 1902, the United Mine Workers went on strike and President Roosevelt feared a coal shortage in the winter would be disastrous for the nation. Throughout the fall, he met with various union representatives and coal producers and by late October, both workers and owners struck a deal meaning a coal crisis was averted!

bear cartoon.jpg

Having dealt with this successfully Roosevelt sought some time to relax, as if on cue Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino invited Roosevelt on a hunting trip later that fall which Roosevelt gladly accepted. Longino’s crew also happened to include famed bear hunter and former slave Holt Collier, who was reportedly told by Roosevelt that he “must see a bear the first day,”. Roosevelt didn’t get to see a bear the first day—but the next day Collier and his men successfully found and cornered a young bear, also managing to chase it into a watering hole. The bear still managed to crush one of Colliers hounds so upon sensing that his dogs were in danger, he swung his rifle at the bears head to knock it unconscious and had his men help him tie the bear to a nearby tree trunk. The groups of men rallied around the tree yelling “Let the president shoot the bear! Let the president shoot the bear!” But, Roosevelt refused; calling the kill ‘unsportsmanlike’. Days later the story made headlines.

Teddy’s Bear

A political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, having read the article decided to satirize the president’s refusal and painted the bear with big innocent eyes and ears in the famous “Drawing the Line in Mississippi”. This was published in the Washington Post in 1902 and with the cartoon being so well received by the public, Berryman continued to draw cuter and smaller bears throughout Roosevelt’s presidency.

Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Candy Shop owner Morris Michtom decided to create a stuffed toy dedicated to Roosevelt’s famed hunting trip. He sent the bear to Roosevelt, nicknaming him “Teddy” and asked the President’s permission to name the toy ‘Teddy’s Bear’. Upon approval, he displayed the new teddy bear in his candy shop and immediately faced a huge increase in demand which led the Michtom’s to establish the Ideal Novelty Toy Company. Having left the candy store business to dedicate themselves to producing the teddy bears, the Michtom’s made a fortune and their bear became an American icon. Today, there are little to no original Michtom bears, but there is one dated back to 1903 on display at the National Museum of American History. This little guy has been through a lot but is in perfect condition!


So why did this stick so well with the public? What is it about bears that makes them so appealing to us, despite a published cute appearance and an origin in our country’s history? We only have the origin story here, but there is a lot more about teddy bear history that is essential in discovering why we have all made them such an important part of our lives. There is a rooted history with literature, psychology all of which is so important and interesting. So stay tuned for more blog posts and our very special teddy bear, and if you’re like us and can’t get enough of them, follow us on instagram! @beargivers