It was party time for the 40 giant teddy bears. They had succeeded in achieving what most fashion conscious people in the world would give their right arm and eye for: a party dress made by the most famous couturiers or dress designers on earth.
And it was all for a grand auction in the tiny principality of Monaco, in Europe. On October 15, world celebrities, both rich and famous vied to make the highest bid for each of the 40 giant stuffed teddies so that their money could be donated to a charitable cause.
And the next day, photographs of Princess Stephanie of Monaco could be seen cuddling next to a rather serious looking teddy.
But you might say that the teddy is used to attention. After all he’s got the nickname of one of America’s most famous presidents, Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 and under his presidency America’s stature grew in world affairs. And therein lies a tale.
The year was 1902. Forty-four-year-old Roosevelt, who had stepped in to become President following the assassination of William McKinley, in 1901, was in a mood to go hunting.
Having had a frail and asthmatic childhood, he had gone out of his way to lead a rough outdoors life. In 1898, during the Spanish-American war, he even led one of the toughest units, called the US Rough Riders, into Cuba.
So there he was, in Mississippi on November 15, and in a mood to hunt. The presidential hunting party went after and lassoed a frail black bear and tied it to a tree to make it easy for Roosevelt to shoot the animal.
The incident was made famous by cartoonist Clifford Barryman of the ‘Washington Post’ on the front page the next day. His cartoon pictured Roosevelt wearing a “cowboy” hat, standing with his back to the animal signaling his refusal to have it shot.
The cartoon took America by storm, particularly a shopkeeper in New York. Morris Michtom ran a stationary and novelty store and was quick to spot a winning business opportunity. He immediately displayed two toy bears made by his wife, Rose, in his shop window.
He asked for and was granted permission by the president to call his bears “Teddy’s Bears”. The rest, as we say, is history, for Teddy’s bears became an instant success. They have remained so to this day, coming in all sizes and levels of softness.
For Michtom, it was time to ride on the success of the stuffed toy and expand his store under the name of Ideal Novelty and Toy Corporation.
Coincidentally, a stuffed bear made its appearance in Germany at the same time (1902-1903). Made by Margaret Steiff of the Steiff company, it was displayed commercially for the first time during a business fair at Leipzig, Germany, in 1903.
The stuffed bear attracted the curiosity of an American who ordered a couple of thousands to take back with him.
What must he have felt on landing in America with his bears and then seeing similar teddy bears sold all over! Can you guess?