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.