The Real Teddy Bear Story

Have you ever wondered where the name ‘teddy bear’ came from? Our name, Tambo Teddies, is fairly self explanatory but why ‘teddies’- where on earth did the ‘teddy’ come from to describe a soft, cuddly toy bear?


Well, believe it or not, teddy bears are named after the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt!


It all started with a hunting trip President Roosevelt took in 1902 in Mississippi at the invitation of Mississippi Governor, Andrew H. Longino. After three days of hunting, President Roosevelt had not spotted a single bear.


And since hunting bears was the whole point of the trip the President’s bear hunt was shaping up to be a failure! So the next day, the hunt guides tracked down an old black bear with their dogs. The guides tied the bear to a willow tree and called for the President. Here was a bear for him to shoot!


But President Roosevelt took one look at the old bear and refused to shoot it, declaring it to be unsportsmanlike. The bear had been attacked by the dogs and was injured and suffering, Roosevelt ordered he be put down to end his pain. Word of this hit newspapers across the country, and political cartoonist Clifford Berryman picked up on the story, drawing a cartoon showing how President Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear.


Cartoons appeared in every newspaper going ‘viral’ 1902 style! The bear got smaller and cuter and the story got larger.


NY candy shop owner, Morris Michtom, saw the original cartoon of Roosevelt and the bear and had an idea. He put in  two stuffed toy bears his wife had made in his shop window and sought permission to call these toy bears “Teddy’s bears”. The rapid popularity of these bears led Michtom to mass-produce them, eventually forming the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.


At about the same time,  Germany company, Steiff, started making stuffed bears. In 1903, an American saw a stuffed bear Margaret Stieff had made and ordered a swag of them; these bears also came to be called Teddy Bears. The name stuck and since those early days in the 1900s any soft stuffed toy made in a bear shape has been called a teddy bear.


Teddy Bears have never lost popularity and at Tambo Teddies we love the fact that President Roosevelt acted so kindly towards that old grizzly bear that day, as are all his lovely namesakes we create.