Experience Our Heritage

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Teddy Bear

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Teddy Bear


We all have that favorite childhood toy that saw us through scary nights and playtime.  For some it might have been G.I. Joe or Barbie and for some it might have been a teddy bear.  The teddy bear is 111 years old this year and was first made in 1902 because of a cartoon depicting President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt

President Roosevelt was an avid hunter and while hunting for bears in Mississippi and Louisiana in 1902, he thought it unsportsmanlike to shoot a bear that had been surrounded by dogs, unconscious and tied to tree.  President Roosevelt refused to kill the bear and instead asked a guide to kill the bear with a knife to end the bears suffering.  Eventually word of President Roosevelt’s decision came to light where the Washington Post published a cartoon by Clifford Berryman.  In Berryman’s cartoon, Roosevelt is seen is as compassionate because he spared the bears life.  The cartoon was redrawn several times with the bear constantly changing.  In the final rendering of the cartoon the bear is shown as a cub.   To see the original cartoon click here.

Due to the cartoon, the story of President Roosevelt and the bear caught the attention of Morris Michtom.  Michtom asked his wife Rose to make a plush bear toy to honor the event.  Apparently Michtom asked the President if he could use his nickname, Teddy, as the name of the bear.  If this was the cause, President Roosevelt gave his permission and teddy bears were created.  The Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in New York, which was founded by Michtom in 1903, produced and sold the bears.  In 1963, Benjamin Michtom, the son of Morris and Rose Michtom, gave the original teddy bear to Kermit, President Roosevelt’s grandson.  In 1964 the teddy bear was donated to the National Museum of American History where it remains today.

Teddy bears are still popular today and can be objects that are kept throughout a person’s life.  Objects like the teddy bear, can

High Plains Museum | T002 Teddy bear that belong to H.G. "Jack" Kempton
High Plains Museum |
T002
Teddy bear that belong to H.G. “Jack” Kempton

have special meanings attached to them.  The teddy bear in our collection was given to H. G. “Jack” Kempton by his grandfather, Olaf Erickson who was an early settler of the county and worked for the railroad.  Kempton was born in Goodland and managed the Sherman Theatre of Goodland in 1926.

Teddy bears have been around for over 100 years and are still objects we give and collect.  They started because of a cartoon depicting President Theodore Roosevelt not wanting to kill a bear.  Morris Michtom started to mass produce these toys in 1903 and the rest is history.

There are some objects that we pass down to future generations or save for ourselves because of the value we have placed on them.  Teddy bears might be one of those objects for some us while others might cherish others objects.  Do you have a favorite childhood toy or object that has special meaning to you?  Are you planning on passing these on to future generations?  Please share in our comments section below.

Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.

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