I pay attention to print advertisements a lot, especially the interesting and unique ones. Today, an advertisement appearing in the local papers caught my eye. It’s run by the Centrepoint shopping centre which is celebrating the 75 years of merrythought teddy bears.

The Teddy Bear Story

Click to enlarge

This cosy image of a cute teddy bear, complete with reading glasses and a book totally made me melt. The bear looks as though he is keeping a vigil watch over the little boy sleeping next to him. Isn’t that what teddy bears do? (if you squint hard enough you can see the title of the book that he’s reading too. What a wise little bear!)

I began wondering why there are teddy bears. Bears aren’t exactly very common animals. Certainly not as common as cats and dogs, or even squirrels. So why are there teddy bears and not teddy dogs, teddy cats, or teddy squirrels? They are just as cute and cuddly aren’t they? And what’s with the word “teddy” anyway?

So I googled for the history of teddy bears. Apparently, these cuddly companions only came about in 1902! Pretty recent huh, considering their ubiquity in the world today.

Back in 1902, Theodore Roosevelt, then president of the United States, went bear-hunting in mississippi. They came upon an old bear which his men then injured and tied to a tree.

Upon realising that the bear was old and injured, the president refused to kill it for sport. But he later had to grant it mercy killing as it was suffering in excruciating pain. Clifford berryman, a cartoonist for the washington post, heard about the incident and drew it in a cartoon for the paper.

Clifford Berryman's cartoon

The cartoon portrayed the president’s refusal to kill the bear. Note that the bear was drawn the same size as the man holding the leash, suggesting it was a full-grown bear. This cartoon was eventually redrawn with the old bear portrayed as a cute little cub instead.

Clifford Berryman's cartoon

After the cartoons were published, a shopkeeper by the name of morris michtom sold two stuffed bears that his wife made. They had sought permission from the president himself to name these “teddy’s bears”.

And that was how teddy bears came about, named after president Theodore Roosevelt himself, whose nickname was “teddy”.

So, the next time a child asks you about teddy bears, you can share with him or her this nice little teddy bear story :)