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Some of the Most Important (and Cutest) Teddy Bear Moments of the Past 114 Years

The American toy was introduced in 1903, and almost immediately made its mark

One of the first teddy bears has been in the Smithsonian's collection for over a half-century. (Smithsonian Institution archives)
smithsonian.com

114 years ago today, one of the 20th century’s most endearing and enduring symbols of childhood was born: the teddy bear.

Much has been written about the teddy bear's origin story, teddy bear portraiture and the species of bear that inspired the toy, but there’s room to say more about how the cuddly creatures have made their own mark.

1903: Meet Theodore Roosevelt, the original teddy bear

Owned by The National Museum of American History, this bear was one of the first manufactured by the Ideal Toy Company, owned by Brooklyn toy sellers Morris and Rose Mitchum.

They produced the first bear in 1903, naming it—of course—Theodore Roosevelt. By 1908, the bear had become such a popular toy that “a Michigan minister warned that replacing dolls with toy bears would destroy the maternal instincts in little girls,” writes the museum.  The Steiff corporation in Germany was also manufacturing stuffed bears in this period, although they were not sold in America at that time.

This bear was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in January 1964 by descendants of Teddy Roosevelt.

About Kat Eschner

Kat Eschner is a freelance journalist based in Toronto who focuses on technology, culture and ethics. She recently graduated from the master’s program in journalism at Ryerson University, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Spring 2016 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

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