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Teddy Bears: A History

The teddy bear as we know it today surfaced only at the start of the 20th century. And, like other well-known inventions – for example, the computer – it was a shared development.

One of the first known appearances of any type of stuffed toy bear was in the German toy company, Gebruder Sussenguth’s catalog in 1984. This occurred in conjunction with German seamstress, Margerete Steiff’s hand-making of stuffed bears. Even before Gebruder Sussenguth began, came out Steiff had been making those toys for a number of years; but the idea of stuffed toy bears then wasn’t yet very popular among Europeans.

In 1903, a buyer from an American toy store bought 3,000 of Steiff’s teddy bears at a fair in Leipzig, and that was when things started to change.
This buyer discovered an opportunity to profit on a real-life event.

In 1902, the President of America was Theodore Roosevelt, who enjoying hunting in the wild. Once, he went hunting in Mississippi and failed to kill a bear, so his hunter friends got one and tied it to a tree. It would have been easy for Roosevelt to shoot it and claim a kill. However, “Teddy” (the former President’s nickname) instead ordered the men to spare the bear, refusing to shoot a helpless animal.
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Of course, The incident ended up in American newspapers. It was the subject of the “Drawing the Line in Mississippi” cartoon created by Washington Post’s Clifford Berryman, and that American store owner who purchased 3,000 bears undoubtedly saw an opportunity.
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Russian immigrants Morris and Rose Michton followed suit, creating their own stuffed toy bear. They made many bears and planned on marketing them. They even sent President Roosevelt one of their toys, asking if they could name it after him. They wanted it to be called “Teddy’s Bear.” Roosevelt gave his go signal, and soon, sales soared.

The Michtons’ bear was quite unique from the Steiff’s however. The Michtons’ bear was more similar to the cartoon in the Washington Post, while the Steiff bear looked a lot more realistic. Both variations skyrocketed in sales after Roosevelt’s nod. Other toy makers have jumped into the bandwagon through the years, and the teddy bear remains a mainstay in any kid’s toy collection all over the world.

Unknown to most, teddy bears were not meant only for children. During the first many years of their popularity, even adults bought them as a sign of being “in fashion.” And as the toys increased in popularity, they also became more sophisticated. There were mechanical teddy bears, teddy bears that did somersaults, etc. After World War II, many of them were made washable. And they have remained to be mainstays of both children’s and adults’ toy collections today.

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