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FRIDAY FLASH FACT – The Political Cartoon that Inspired the Creation of the Teddy Bear

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Political cartoons, with their artful combination of images and words, often persuade and inspire voters, but one notable cartoon inspired the name of the stuffed toy bear known as the “teddy bear.”

In 1902, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was invited to hunt bear in Mississippi.  The other members of the hunting party had killed bears, and were eager to give the president an opportunity to kill one.  The hunting guides had chained an old bear – after it had been trailed, attacked, and wounded by dogs – to a tree and offered the president a shot at the animal.  Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear, feeling it was unsportsmanlike.

Washington Post cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman heard this story and created a cartoon entitled “Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” which depicted a compassionate Roosevelt declining to shoot a young bear cub restrained by a hunting guide.

New York businessman Morris Michtom saw Berryman’s cartoon and was inspired to name the toy bears that he sold “Teddy’s bear,” after securing permission from Roosevelt to use his name for the product. The toy bears were very popular, and they were soon mass-produced.

Note that Berryman’s cartoon was inaccurate.  The bear Roosevelt refused to shoot was an old bear, not a young cub. (And although Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear himself, he did order that the bear be killed in order to end its suffering.)  However, Berryman’s adorable cartoon bear cub inspired the name of a popular toy that is still around today.