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Once upon time.... The humble Teddy Bear was created over a century ago. In fact, the year 2002 saw the world celebrating the Centenary of the Teddy Bear .

What better time than now to look back at the origins of the teddy bear ....

It all began way back in November 1902 , when then US President Theodore Roosevelt journeyed south to settle a border dispute. His mission was to draw a line between the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

It all began way back in November 1902 , when then US President Theodore Roosevelt journeyed south to settle a border dispute. His mission was to draw a line between the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Knowing that the President was a keen sportsman who loved hunting, his hosts invited him on a hunting expedition during a break in political negotiations.

10 days of hunting however did not yield a single sighting of wild bears, a source of embarrassment , no doubt , to the President's hosts. Finally finding a poor frightened bear cub, the President's hosts tethered the bear cub to a post and led the President to it. When President Roosevelt saw the poor defenceless bear cub, he turned away, disgusted, saying that he "drew the line" at killing anything so small.

The press capitalised on the event which made headlines throughout America. A political cartoonist by the name of Clifford Berryman drew a now famous cartoon of the President turning away from the defenceless bear cub , with the caption "Drawing The Line in Mississippi" , an obvious pun regarding the border dispute.

A Russian immigrant living then in USA by the name of Morris Michtom saw the cartoon, and hit on the idea of making a toy bear and selling it in his little store in Brooklyn that he ran with his wife. His wife was an excellent craftmaker, and the toy bear that the Michtom's sold at their store was a big hit. The bears became known affectionately as "Teddy Bears" as Teddy was President Roosevelt's nickname, and legend has it that Morris Michtom even had written permission from the President to use his name. Morris Michtom would later set up the famous Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. in USA.

At the same time , across the ocean over in Germany , a lady by the name of Margarete Steiff had started a company making toys out of fabric material for children. She was disabled by polio, but did not let her disability get in the way of her creativity and artistry with fabric. Her nephew Richard Steiff had come up with the idea of creating jointed bears, which could be posed like dolls , after observing and sketching real bears at the Stuttgart Zoo. These early bears made by Margarete Stieff were presented for sale at the Spring Fair in Leipzig, Germany in March 1903, but went largely unnoticed, to the disappointment of the Steiffs.

 

On the last day of the fair, as the Steiffs were packing away their wares, an American toy distributor, Hermann Berg of the Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. company (New York) , came up to their table and asked if they had anything novel to present to him. Richard Steiff took out their jointed bear, and the distributor, seeing the potential of these toys as bear mania swept America, immediately placed an order for 3000 bears.

The rest, they say, is history. By 1908, thousands of Steiff Teddy Bears were being sold a year as children all around the world embraced the teddy bear, and those early years are till today known as the Teddy Bear Years.The humble teddy bear has come a long way since then, but will always be fondly remembered by children young and old , as that special childhood friend they would never forget...

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