How did the Teddy bear get its name? A presidential hunting party in Mississippi sets the scene for the answer.
In 1902 Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino had invited President Theodore Roosevelt to his state for what was promised to be an eventful bear hunt. As the expedition wore on and Roosevelt could find no bear, a skilled guide tracked one down and tied it to a tree so that the president was assured of bagging a bruin.
The cuddly new creation was called "Teddy's bear." The name — and the bear — took off from there.
It's been said that Roosevelt, knowing the animal was injured, refused to take his shot as he felt it would be unsportsmanlike for him to kill the fettered bear. Other hunters put the bear out of its misery.
The story was reported in newspapers across the country. Political cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman imagined the scene in a drawing published in the Washington Post showing President Roosevelt, the big game hunter, refusing to shoot a small, vulnerable bear. "Drawing the line in Mississippi" was the cartoon's title, and some thought it had meaning beyond Roosevelt's ethics as a sportsman, subtly calling attention to the president's criticism of lynchings in the South.
Morris and Rose Michtom, who ran a store in Brooklyn, were reportedly the first in the United States to capitalize on the story's popularity by marketing a plush bear doll. After getting approval from the president to use his name, they initially called their cuddly creation "Teddy's bear." The name — and the bear — took off from there. Around the same time the Michtoms' Teddy bear was gaining popularity, the German toy manufacturer, Steiff, began marketing a stuffed bear with a moving head and limbs. Though not originally called a "Teddy bear" when it was first developed in 1902, the company took advantage of the American bear fever, and its iconic bear toys are still coveted by collectors today.