Let’s Talk About….Teddy’s Bear

There is so much history swirling around the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi! Doubt one could have time to read all the books that have been published about this river town through the decades. One story concerns Teddy Roosevelt. 

TR (1858-1919), was a politician, statesman, soldier, conservationist and naturalist and was America’s 26th president. He was a cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt. TR’s biggest love was anything outdoors and he especially loved the sport of hunting. Hoping to get some good publicity, Mississippi’s governor, Andrew H. Longino, invited Teddy on a bear hunting trip in 1902 near Onward, Mississippi.

The hunting party went off in great spirits, but after several days they had not yet even seen a bear. One of Roosevelt’s assistants, led by Holt Collier, a born slave and former Confederate cavalryman, corned and tied a black bear to a tree. They summoned Roosevelt and suggested he shoot it. Viewing this as extremely unsportsmanlike, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear.

The story of “Teddy’s Bear” flashed quickly across the country and everyone loved the tale. A political cartoon of the day shows Roosevelt in his Rough Riders garb refusing to shoot a loveable-looking little bear. 

This image inspired a couple in Brooklyn, who were making stuffed toys, write to Roosevelt asking his permission to make “Teddy’s Bear.” Hearing a yes reply, the couple set to making stuffed little bears and nowadays teddy bears are everywhere. Fun to think the worldwide popularity of teddy bears can be traced back to Theodore’s fateful hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902.

And that’s the rest of the story…………….. this is an original Teddy’s Bear, now in the Smithsonian.