Bear thought to be made by Morris Michtom, early 1900s; donated to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History by Theodore Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit Roosevelt Jr., in 1964
A replica Steiff model 55PB displayed at the Steiff-Museum, Giengen, Germany, 2006; no original examples of the 55PB are known to survive

A Teddy bear is a stuffed toy in the form of a bear. Developed apparently simultaneously by toymakers Morris Michtom in the U.S. and Richard Steiff under his aunt Margarete Steiff's company in Germany in the early 20th century, the teddy bear, named after President Theodore Roosevelt, became a popular children's toy and has been celebrated in story, song, and film.[1]

Since the creation of the first Teddy bears which sought to imitate the form of real bear cubs, "teddies" have greatly varied in form, style, color, and material. They have become collector's items, with older and rarer teddies appearing at public auctions.[2] Teddy bears are among the most popular gifts for children and are often given to adults to signify affection, congratulations, or sympathy.


A 1902 political cartoon in The Washington Post spawned the teddy bear name.

The name teddy bear comes from former United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who was often referred to as "Teddy" (a nickname which he loathed).[3] The name originated from an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, to which Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already killed an animal. A suite of Roosevelt's attendants, led by Holt Collier,[4] cornered, clubbed, and tied an American black bear to a willow tree after a long exhausting chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he shoot it, although Collier told Roosevelt not to shoot the bear while it was tied.[5] Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery,[6][7] and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902.[8][9][10] While the initial cartoon of an adult black bear lassoed by a handler and a disgusted Roosevelt had symbolic overtones, later issues of that and other Berryman cartoons made the bear smaller and cuter.[11]

Morris Michtom saw the Berryman drawing of Roosevelt and was inspired to create a teddy bear. He created a tiny soft bear cub and put it in his candy shop window at 404 Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn with a sign "Teddy's bear." The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.[7]

A little earlier in 1902 in Germany, the Steiff firm produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff's designs. Steiff exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903, where it was seen by Hermann Berg, a buyer for George Borgfeldt & Company in New York (and the brother of composer Alban Berg).[12] He ordered 3,000 to be sent to the United States.[13] Although Steiff's records show that the bears were produced, they are not recorded as arriving in the U.S., and no example of the type, "55 PB", has ever been seen, leading to the story that the bears were shipwrecked. However, the shipwreck story is disputed – author Günther Pfeiffer notes that it was only recorded in 1953 and says it is more likely that the 55 PB was not sufficiently durable to survive until the present day.[14] Although Steiff and Michtom were both making teddy bears at around the same time, neither would have known of the other's creation due to poor transatlantic communication.[8]

North American educator Seymour Eaton wrote the children's book series The Roosevelt Bears,[15] while composer John Walter Bratton wrote an instrumental "The Teddy Bears' Picnic", a "characteristic two-step", in 1907, which later had words written to it by lyricist Jimmy Kennedy in 1932.

Early teddy bears were made to look like real bears, with extended snouts and beady eyes. Modern teddy bears tend to have larger eyes and foreheads and smaller noses, babylike features intended to enhance the toy's "cuteness". Some teddy bears are also designed to represent different species, such as polar bears and brown bears, as well as pandas and koalas.

While early teddy bears were covered in tawny mohair fur, modern teddy bears are manufactured in a wide variety of commercially available fabrics, most commonly synthetic fur, but also velour, denim, cotton, satin, and canvas.



Commercially made, mass-produced teddy bears are predominantly made as toys for children. These bears either have safety joints for attaching arms, legs, and heads, or else the joints are sewn and not articulated. They must have securely fastened eyes that do not pose a choking hazard for small children. These "plush" bears must meet a rigid standard of construction in order to be marketed to children in the United States and in the European Union. The Vermont Teddy Bear Company in the U.S. is one of the world's largest specialty marketers of teddy bears.

There are also companies, like Steiff, that sell handmade collectible bears that can be purchased in stores or over the Internet. The majority of teddy bears are manufactured in countries with low production costs, such as China and Indonesia. A few small, single-person producers in the United States make unique, non-mass-produced teddy bears. In the United Kingdom one small, traditional teddy bear company remains, Merrythought, which was established in 1930.[16] Mohair, the fur shorn or combed from a breed of long haired goats, is woven into cloth, dyed and trimmed.


Teddy bears are a favourite form of soft toy for amateur toy makers, with many patterns commercially produced or available online. Many "teddies" are home-made as gifts or for charity, while "teddy bear artists" often create "teddies" for retail, decorating them individually with commercial and recycled ornaments such as sequins, beads and ribbons. Sewn teddy bears are made from a wide range of materials including felt, cotton and velour. While many are stitched, others are made from yarn, either knitted or crocheted.

Cultural impact

An RAF Boulton Paul Defiant crew with their teddy bear mascot at RAF Biggin Hill during World War II

Retail sales of stuffed plush animals including teddy bears totaled $1.3 billion in 2006,[17] with manufacturers including Gund and Ty Inc.

Teddy bear plush toys have enjoyed ongoing popularity, complete with specialty retailers such as Teddy Atelier Stursberg and Vermont Teddy Bear Company, as well as do-it-yourself chains including Build-A-Bear Workshop.


The world's first teddy bear museum was set up in Petersfield, Hampshire, England, in 1984. In 1990, a similar foundation was set up in Naples, Florida, United States. These were closed in 2006 and 2005 respectively, and the bears were sold in auctions, but there are many teddy bear museums around the world today.

Emergency services

Because police, fire and medical officials found that giving a teddy bear to a child during a crisis stabilized and calmed them, NAPLC created the Teddy Bear Cops program to distribute teddy bears to police, fire, and medical responders throughout the United States.[18]

April Fools' Day

On April Fools' Day 1972, issue 90 of The Veterinary Record published a paper on the diseases of Brunus edwardii detailing common afflictions of teddy bears.[19][20]

World's largest teddy bear

The largest teddy bear measures 19.41 m (63 ft 8 in) in length and was constructed by Municipio de Xonacatlán, Ideas por México and Agrupación de Productores de Peluche (all Mexico), in Estado de México, on 28 April 2019. The bear was displayed at the local stadium in the city of Xonacatlán, and was made with the same materials as a commercially available teddy bear, including details such as a tiara, dress, eyes, and nose.[21]

Billy Possum

Main article: Billy Possum

The Billy Possum was a plush toy created after William Howard Taft won the presidential election in 1908. The toy was a stuffed possum, made to replace the teddy bear. The possum was chosen because of Taft's love for "possum and taters", and as a symbol of southern pride. Toy companies making them advertised using slogans predicting the end of teddy bear popularity. Those around Taft theorized that he would be remembered in a similar way as Roosevelt with a popular toy. However, the Billy Possum plush toy didn't achieve the same level of popularity or enduring legacy, and the toy's production and impact were minimal in comparison.[22]

In popular culture


  1. ^ David Cannadine (February 1, 2003). "A point of view - The Grownups with teddy bears". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  2. ^ "A STEIFF HARLEQUIN TEDDY BEAR, jointed, half red and half blue mohair, one blue and black and one brown and black glass eye, black stitching, yellow felt pads and FF button, circa 1925 --13½in. (34cm.) high (small bald spot below right ear, some fading mainly to the blue, blue eye cracked, patch to right pad and some general wear)". Christie's. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved October 12, 2010. Estimate £50,000–£80,000
  3. ^ Matuz, Roger (2004). The Handy Presidents Answer Book. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 9780780807730.
  4. ^ Minor Ferris Buchanan. "Holt Collier" (PDF). United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  5. ^ Glave, Dianne D.; Stoll, Mark (2006). To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History. University of Pittsburgh Pre. pp. ix. ISBN 978-0-8229-7290-7 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Mary Bellis (February 28, 2019). "History of the Teddy Bear". Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  7. ^ a b "Teddy Bears". Library Of Congress. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Clay, Marianne (2002). "The History of the Teddy Bear". Teddy Bear & Friends. Madavor Media, LLC. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  9. ^ "Real Teddy Bear Story". Theodore Roosevelt Association. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020.
  10. ^ "The Story of the Teddy Bear - Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site". National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020.
  11. ^ "Theodore Roosevelt Association. The story of The Teddy Bear". February 1, 2013. Archived from the original on March 17, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  12. ^ "Bring on the Berg". Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise. July 8, 2010. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020.
  13. ^ "Teddy bear celebrates 100th birthday". BBC News. December 3, 2002. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020.
  14. ^ Cronin, Francis (July 26, 2011). "The great teddy bear shipwreck mystery". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 5, 2020.
  15. ^ "Seymour Eaton". Greater Lansdowne Civic Association (GLCA). 2003. Archived from the original on May 2, 2006. Retrieved December 10, 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  16. ^ Burton, Lucy (February 21, 2011). "Britain's last surviving teddy bear factory". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 6, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  17. ^ "Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 22, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  18. ^ "Officers using the Teddy Bear Cops program". Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  19. ^ "Brunus edwardii (1972)". Archived from the original on June 5, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  20. ^ Blackmore, DK; DG Owen; CM Young (1972). "Some observations on the diseases of Brunus edwardii (Species nova)". Veterinary Record. 90 (14): 382–385. doi:10.1136/vr.90.14.382. PMID 5034618. S2CID 7415923. Archived from the original on November 22, 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
  21. ^ "World's largest teddy bear". Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2023.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ "Billy Possum: President Taft's Answer to the Teddy Bear". Mental Floss. June 10, 2013. Retrieved December 20, 2023.