Friday 18 November 2011

Drawing the Line in Mississippi

The original stuffed animals, of course, were Teddy bears.  Today I googled the history of the Teddy bear.  It originated in November 1902 when President Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt went on a hunting trip in America's Deep South.  His attendants, along with a pack of hounds, chased and lassoed a black bear which they brought back to the President, suggesting that he shoot the bear.  Teddy thought such a barbaric act would be "unsportsmanlike" and refused to comply. 

In the meantime, political cartoonist Clifford Berryman read about the President's hunting trip and drew a cartoon featuring the President, his back turned to the lassoed bear with an upraised hand, its palm outward, motioning "Stop".  The caption under the artwork read:  "Drawing the Line in Mississippi". 

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Toymaker Morris Michtom spotted the cartoon in the Washington Post and thought of the idea for a stuffed bear named "Teddy". The Teddy bear was quickly selling like hotcakes: women with small children could be seen toting them around; children were photographed with them; and Theodore Roosevelt even used one as a mascot for his re-election in 1906.

So what started as a hunting trip in Mississippi ended with a toy craze that swept the world.  In March 1903, a German company called Steiff started manufacturing stuffed bears.  Some claim that Richard Steiff invented the Teddy bear, although, of course, he didn't coin the term.  I think of the first Teddy bear and what joy it brought to its owner.  Love live the Teddy bear!

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