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December 29: The Michtoms’ Teddy Bear

Lawrence Bush
December 29, 2009

Michtom-_TeddyBearOn this day in 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to cartoonist Clifford Berryman praising his Washington Post portrayal of Roosevelt refusing to shoot a small bear — based on an actual incident in which the President, a prodigious hunter, had refrained from killing a cornered young bear in Mississippi. Berryman’s cartoon inspired Brooklyn candystore owners Morris and Rose Michtom to create the “Teddy Bear,” which sold for $1.50 and became wildly popular. Though the Michtoms were unable to patent their doll, its quick success permitted them to launch the Ideal Toy and Novelty Company, which remained in the family’s hands until it was acquired by CBS in the 1970s. Their original Teddy Bear is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.
“Now that I’m all grown up, I can buy any old Teddy Bear I want — except the old Teddy Bear I want.” — William Sternman

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.