The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

The Good News Gazette

Grin and Hug it
Bearing up well, the ubiquitous teddy turns 100

By Erica Kicak–Vanderhoeven
The Washington Post, November 2002

— THIS STORY is by Erica Kicak–Vanderhoeven, a sixth–grader at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria. Erica won regional honors last month in Build–a–Bear Workshop"s national story–writing contest, part of the retail franchise"s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear.

"I like just looking at my teddy bears. And if I've had a bad day, I sort of tell them about it," says Erica, 11.

But cute and cuddly doesn't totally explain how teddy bears have endured a century as arguably the most popular toy ever. Many plush animals are cute and cuddly. Teddy bears aren't just any stuffed animal.

For many children, they are the first object of affection, a confidant, a fuzzy embodiment of comfort, solace and security at bedtime. For some adults, they are a powerful symbol of those same needs.

The emotion–loaded mystique they possess explains why hundreds of stuffed bears — not stuffed rabbits or Barbie dolls — are left at makeshift monuments to victims of tragedy, from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the massacre at Columbine High School. It's why one of the most memorable images from the Moscow theater seized by Chechen terrorists was a little girl clinging to her teddy bear.

The original Teddy

Many people know the toy is named for Teddy Roosevelt, but they don't know the circumstances that started in the pages of this newspaper.

In November 1902, President Roosevelt went bear hunting in the woodlands of Mississippi. After several days, he hadn't seen a bear.

The guide"s hunting dogs finally sniffed out a small bear, chased it to exhaustion and attacked it. The guide fetched the president, but Roosevelt was dismayed to find the dazed and suffering bear tied to a tree. He refused to shoot the creature, considering it unsportsmanlike, but demanded it be put out of its misery.

When Washington Post cartoonist Clifford Berryman heard the story, he sketched a scene of Roosevelt declining to shoot the defenseless bear. The cartoon appeared on the front page of the paper 100 years ago this Saturday.

Berryman knew a good hook when he drew one and continued to sketch the bear into cartoons — only the image quickly evolved from the scrawny original into a rounded, big–eyed, cute little cub that became the model of the cuddly teddy bear.

Inspired by Berryman's cartoon, New York shopkeeper Morris Michtom displayed two stuffed bears sewn by his wife, Rose Michtom, in his shop window at $1.50 each. The sign called them "Teddy's Bears." Soon, public demand led the couple to turn their shop into the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. and begin manufacturing teddy bears.

Without the cartoon, "there definitely wouldn't have been teddy bears at all," says Frank Murphy, author of "The Legend of the Teddy Bear."Copyright © November, 2002 The Washington Post
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©Margie Culbertson

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