• A 1901 sketch of Theodore Roosevelt taking the oath of office in Buffalo, NY.

    Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural

    National Historic Site New York

The History of Teddy's Bear

In November of 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt, a noted hunting enthusiast, had been invited to join a bear hunt near the town of Smedes, Mississippi. When the President had initially proven unsuccessful on this hunt, guide Holt Collier determined to find a suitable quarry for Roosevelt. Tracking a 235-pound bear to a watering hole, Collier stunned the unfortunate bear by clubbing it over the head, and tied it securely to a nearby tree. A messenger was sent to summon the President, but when Roosevelt arrived he was unimpressed by the spectacle of a bound, dazed and bleeding bear. He had been dismayed by this unfamiliar method of hunting, using packs of dogs to track, flush out and wear down the prey while the hunter need only lie in wait for the animal to be driven to him. This was far from the strenuous physical challenge Roosevelt was accustomed to and fond of. He not only refused to claim the bear himself, but forbade anyone else from doing so as well. Regrettably, the rarely repeated resolution to the story does not include a happy ending for the bear. Seeing the condition of the injured bear, which had been badly mauled by the dogs, Roosevelt asked that it be put out of its misery and it was killed with a hunting knife.

Reporters with the hunting party soon spread news of Roosevelt's fair play nationwide. Among those inspired by the story was Washington Post political cartoonist Clifford Berryman, who produced a wildly popular cartoon of the incident. New York City storeowners Morris and Rose Michtom were further inspired by the cartoon, and Mrs. Michtom produced two stuffed bears for sale in their shop. The Michtom family even claimed to have written to Roosevelt and received permission to attach his name to the toy. "Teddy's bear" swiftly became a nation-wide fad, and later an enduring pop-culture symbol that has long outlasted its inspiration and namesake.

Did You Know?

Theodore Roosevelt receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He received it for his contribution to negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War.