The history of the teddy bear


The name Teddy Bear comes from former United States’ President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was ‘Teddy’. The name originated from an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902.


Political caricature

This became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on 16 November 1902. He drew Roosevelt refusing to shoot with the bear in the background. The bear gradually appeared in all Berryman’s cartoons of Roosevelt and other newspaper cartoonists followed up the trend.

Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn shop owner, became fascinated by the bear story and asked his wife to sew a bear just like the one in the cartoons. The couple wrote a letter to the President and asked him for his permission to use the name Teddy’s Bear for his bears. The President agreed and Morris Michtom closed his shop and opened a toy factory called the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company. The factory became one of the world’s largest teddy bear factories.

Production starts

At about the same time in Germany a man named Richard Steiff, unaware of Michtom’s bear, begins designing a new toy. Whilst visiting Stuttgart Zoo, he became fascinated by the behaviour of some of the bears. Steiff, from this experience, envisages a bear standing on two legs almost like a doll. He asks his Aunt Margarete to help him. Margarete had polio as a child and was wheelchair bound all her life. She had been sewing toys for many years and was able to sew a bear based on her nephew’s drawings. Steiff began production and exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903. It however generated little interest. It was however noticed by a buyer who ordered 3,000 to be sent to the United States. So begins Steiff’s bear adventure. Steiff produced almost 1 million bears in 1907.