Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1903

First Teddy bear goes on sale

On this day in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution.

One of Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting expeditions provided the inspiration for the Teddy bear. Ironically, though he was an avid conservationist, Roosevelt-led hunting trips often resulted in excessive slaughter, including one African trip during which his party killed more than 6,000 animals for sport and trophies. However, the idea for the teddy bear likely arose out of one of Roosevelt’s more compassionate acts.

Reports differ as to the exact details of the inspiration behind the teddy bear, but it is thought that while hunting in Mississippi in 1902, Roosevelt came upon an old injured black bear that his guides had tied to a tree. (The age, sex and state of health of the bear remain contested.) While some reports claim Roosevelt shot the bear out of pity for his suffering, others insist he set the bear free. Political cartoonists later portrayed the bear as a cub, implying that under the tough, outdoorsy and macho image of Roosevelt lay a much softer, more sensitive interior.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Canada adopts maple leaf flag

In accordance with a formal proclamation by Queen Elizabeth II of England, a new Canadian national flag is raised above Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Beginning in 1610, Lower Canada, a new British colony, flew Great Britain’s Union Jack, or Royal Union Flag. ...read more

FDR escapes assassination in Miami

On this day in 1933, a deranged, unemployed brick layer named Giuseppe Zangara shouts Too many people are starving! and fires a gun at America’s president-elect, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt had just delivered a speech in Miami’s Bayfront Park from the back seat of his open ...read more

Lillian Hellman sues Mary McCarthy

On this day in 1980, playwright Lillian Hellman filed a lawsuit claming $2.2 million in damages against novelist Mary McCarthy for libel. McCarthy, a sarcastic and critical novelist whose most popular novel was The Group (1963), about eight Vassar graduates, had called Hellman “a ...read more

Disney’s Cinderella opens

On this day in 1950, Walt Disney’s animated feature Cinderella opens in theaters across the United States. The Chicago-born Disney began his career as an advertising cartoonist in Kansas City. After arriving in Hollywood in 1923, he and his older brother Roy set up shop in the ...read more

The death penalty–then and now

Giuseppe Zangara shoots Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, in Miami, Florida. Zangara’s shots missed President-elect Franklin Roosevelt, who was with Cermak at the time. Cermak was seriously wounded and died on March 6. Immediately after Mayor Cermak died from the gunshot ...read more

Singapore falls to Japan

Singapore, the “Gibraltar of the East” and a strategic British stronghold, falls to Japanese forces. An island city and the capital of the Straits Settlement of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore had been a British colony since the 19th century. In July 1941, when Japanese troops ...read more