Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Today's the Day the Teddy Bears Have Their Picnic

July 10th is Teddy Bear's Picnic Day. And that means it's time to brush up on a little bit of furry history.


See, the whole teddy bear craze began with a hunting trip, a tied up bear, and a man with principles...

US President Theodore Roosevelt was a hunter who particularly enjoyed hunting big game. In 1902, while on a Presidential hunting trip in Mississippi, he was unsuccessful in bagging a big game animal. So, his hosts captured a small bear, tied it to a tree, and presented it to the President to shoot.

"Spare the bear!" Roosevelt cried. "I will not shoot a tethered animal."

The Washington Post picked up the story, and ran a cartoon (drawn by Clifford Berryman) depicting the event on November 16, 1902. The cartoon became an instant sensation, and was widely reprinted.



When toy store owners Morris and Rose Michtom, of Brooklyn, New York, heard about the story, they were inspired to create stuffed bears in honor of the President's actions. They even contacted him to request permission to name their new toy "Teddy's Bear." Their creation was sweet and innocent looking, and sat upright instead of standing on all fours. Teddy's Bears became wildly popular, and the Michtom's bear-making operation morphed into the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company - one of the largest toy companies in the world, and the first teddy bear manufacturer in the United States.

At about the same time in Germany, the Steiff company came out with a stuffed, jointed bear which they debuted at the March 1903 Leipzig Toy Fair. European buyers showed little interest. But one American buyer, aware of the Teddy's Bear craze back in the States, ordered 3,000 of Steiff's Baer 55PB.

By 1906, the teddy bear frenzy was in full swing: society ladies carried their teddies everywhere, kids had their pictures taken with their bears, and Roosevelt himself used the bear in his re-election bid! "Teddy bear" had become the accepted term for the toy, and is still in use today. This was also the year that composer J.K. Bratton wrote "The Teddy Bear Two-Step." With words added, the song became "The Teddy Bear's Picnic." Besides Ideal and Steiff, many other new teddy bear companies sprang up during this time, but not many remained in business. One notable exception: Gund, which is still successfully making bears to this day.

Since those humble yet wildly popular beginnings, teddy bears have become synonymous with childhood. Many adults still wax nostalgic on their beloved teddy bears - writing books about them, reminiscing about them, and collecting them. (My own mother is an enthusiastic teddy bear collector...but I won't give up her age!)

2008 marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of the teddy bear, and July 10th is Teddy Bear's Picnic Day, so celebrate these momentous milestones by having a teddy bear picnic tomorrow whether you're six, or one-hundred-six!

To help you out, here are some sites to get your picnic planning started:

For further inspiration as you plan a fantastic Teddy Bear Picnic of your very own for July 10th, keep this last verse of Teddy Bear Picnic running in your head: 

Every teddy bear that's been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play.

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please.
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

2 comments:

  1. Have I told you lately how much I love your blog?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, ma'am! Your blog leaves me in stitches - I know I can always get a much needed belly laugh when I visit your site...

    ReplyDelete

So, what's on your mind?