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Thread: The Teddy Bear Was Once Seen as a Dangerous Influence on Young Children

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    Cool The Teddy Bear Was Once Seen as a Dangerous Influence on Young Children

    The Teddy Bear Was Once Seen as a Dangerous Influence on Young Children

    Inspired by a moment of empathy from President Theodore Roosevelt, the huggable toy had a rocky start before it became the stuff of legend


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    A true history of the teddy bear begins in the American wilderness. In November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a hunting trip in Mississippi with one main goal: to bag a black bear. As the tale goes, after Roosevelt had scoured the brush for several days without so much as spotting one, some of his hunting companions corralled an injured old bear and tied it to a willow tree. Here, they said, was Roosevelt’s opportunity to slay one and declare victory. Horrified, the president refused, saying it would be unseemly—unsporting!—for a man of honor to kill this vulnerable creature. He ordered the decrepit bear to be euthanized, and this odd show of mercy quickly became news.


    Editorial cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman captured the scene in several Washington Post drawings—one showing a thin Roosevelt refusing to kill a bear, another picturing a more realistically stocky Roosevelt near a smaller bear with a wide-eyed, babylike face. To Brooklyn candy store owner Morris Michtom, the cute cub from the cartoons also looked like a marketing opportunity. He asked his wife, Rose, to sew a stuffed version, and that single prototype sold shortly after the couple placed it in the store window. Rose made more, and with demand exceeding what busy fingers could create, the two began factory production in 1903. Michtom called his cushy new companions “Teddy’s bears,” after the president. By late 1906, the name had shifted to “teddy bear.”


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    Not everyone was enthralled, though. A few social commentators saw teddy bears as ominous: They feared that some girls’ preference for soft animals over humanlike dolls would become all-consuming, replacing the female urge to nurture babies—and eventually lead to childless marriages. In 1907, the Rev. Michael G. Esper of Michigan warned his congregation that “the fad for supplanting the good old dolls of our childhood with the horrible monstrosity known as the teddy bear” would lead to falling birthrates. The issue roiled the country, though most did not share Esper’s paranoia. A few days after Esper’s tirade, Nevada’s Reno Evening Gazette ran a piece with the headline “Teddy Bears Rule Supreme,” in which a local woman rebuts Esper: “The teddy bear is only a fad, and I do not believe that it is at all harmful for children to play with them.”


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    Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect. -- Woody Hayes​

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