8 Facts About Theodore Roosevelt: A President’s Claim to Fame: A Plush Toy

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3. A President’s Claim to Fame: A Plush Toy

From the Greatest Generation to Baby Boomers to Gens X, Y, Z and beyond, show them a cute stuffed bear, and more than likely they’ll know it’s a Teddy Bear. But how did that timeless toy come into existence? It all started on a hunting trip.

Theodore Roosevelt was an ardent outdoorsman. He was especially enthusiastic about hunting. In November 1902, Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino invited President Roosevelt on a bear hunt. Though he was an experienced hunter, T.R. was unable to even find a bear on this trip, let alone shoot one. Not wanting the president of the United States to be shamed, one of T.R.’s assistants located an old, debilitated bear, cornered it, and told Roosevelt to take his shot, but he refused, saying it would be unsportsmanlike.

The story of the big game hunter president who wouldn’t shoot a bear spread across the country in newspaper article after news article. Renowned political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman jumped on the bandwagon, drawing a lighthearted satirical cartoon that newspapers picked up across the nation. The buzz inspired a Brooklyn, N.Y., candy store owner to ask his wife to make plush bears he called “Teddy’s Bear” to commemorate the incident and honor Theodore Roosevelt. And the craze took off.

With Roosevelt’s permission to use his name, the store owner mass-produced the toy, and the Teddy Bear became a childhood friend to kids worldwide—and is still popular to this day.