Steiff Teddy Bear

Light brown jointed teddy bear

John Fitzgerald Kennedy NHS Museum Collection (JOFI 852)

In the late 1960s, as Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was refurnishing the house at 83 Beals Street to reflect and recall its 1917 appearance, one of the rooms she was concerned with was the nursery. Since her son, future President John F. Kennedy, was born in the house and lived there for only a few years, the nursery needed to reflect something of that period in his life. In order to help accomplish that goal, one category of items Mrs. Kennedy wanted to include in the space was toys.

One of the more prominently displayed toys in the nursery today is this teddy bear, which now sits on the nursery bed. By the time of John F. Kennedy's birth in 1917, the teddy bear was already a popular toy, and had been for well over a decade. It owed its name to a story about President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, who while on a hunting outing in Mississippi in 1902, famously refused to shoot a bear. Just a year later, the toy stuffed bear was developed simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic: by Morris Michtom in the United States, and by Richard Steiff in Germany. The toy soon became known as the "teddy bear".

The bear displayed in the nursery of the Kennedys' Beals Street home was made by the Steiff company. It was purchased in 1967 from FAO Schwarz as part of the project to refurnish the house. Even though this toy was made in the 1960s, it was patterned after a Steiff design that dates back to the early twentieth century, so it is possible that a bear of this general type and appearance was present in the house during John F. Kennedy's residency from 1917 to 1920.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Last updated: February 24, 2021