National American Teddy Bear Day
annually on November 14th
Teddy Bears are as American as baseball, jazz, and apple pie, having fully permeated American culture. They also are named after a president, and by many accounts, were first created in a shop in New York City—all making it only fitting that a day dedicated to them would have the word "American" in it.
In November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter, went on a hunting excursion organized by Mississippi's governor, Andrew Longino, in Smedes, Mississippi. Roosevelt was accompanied by some aides, other hunters, and reporters, as well as a hunting guide, Holt Collier, and his hunting dogs. After a few days without success, Roosevelt and the hunting dogs were on the trail of a black bear. Having thought that they had lost the bear, Roosevelt went back to camp, but Collier and his dogs kept searching. Collier and his dogs found the 235 pound bear, and the dogs circled it and began biting and attacking it. The bear killed one of the dogs, and Collier clubbed the bear over the head and tied it to a tree. He bugled for Roosevelt, who found the bear mauled from the the dogs, and refused to shoot it. He also forbade anyone else from shooting it, but as the bear was so injured, he had the bear put out of its misery by having it be killed with a hunting knife.
A few days later, a cartoon titled "Drawing the line in Mississippi", which showed Roosevelt refusing to shoot the bear, was drawn by Clifford Berryman, and appeared in the Washington Post. Rose and Morris Mitchom, store owners in New York City, saw the cartoon and were inspired to create the teddy bear, which they originally called "Teddy's bear". They eventually founded the Ideal Toy Company which produced the bears, and even allegedly wrote to Roosevelt asking his permission to use his name for their bear. About the same time as the Mitchom's debuted their bear, Richard Steiff of Germany created a stuffed teddy bear as well, which also became very popular.
Since the creation of the teddy bear, it has become an American icon. It is one of the most popular toys and comfort items for children, and has also been featured in songs, television shows, and movies. Teddy bears have also become important collector's items for adults. But, maybe adults don't just collect bears because of their monetary value. A recent study found that over half of adults still have their favorite stuffed animal they grew up with, 40% sleep with it by their side, and 70% said they want to keep it for the rest of their lives!
How to Observe
If you are one of over half of adults who still have your childhood bear, you could celebrate the day by getting your teddy bear out and spending your day with it. If you have children or grandchildren, you could show them the teddy bear you grew up with. You could visit a place to make your own teddy bear, such as Build-A-Bear, or simply buy a teddy bear at a store. Since today's holiday has the word "American" in it, it is an excellent day to buy a teddy bear made in the United States, such as one made by Vermont Teddy Bear. If you are feeling really ambitious, you could start sewing your own teddy bear. If you are making or buying a bear, why not get two and give one to a child in need? There are plenty of books or TV shows that you could spend the day with, with characters such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington, and Corduroy. Movies such as Ted may be more suitable for adults. The day could be celebrated reading more about Teddy Roosevelt, or by visiting a teddy bear museum.