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The Legend of the Teddy Bear
by Frank Murphy , Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen
Search Amazon for other books by or about Frank Murphy.

Reviewed by: John L. Hoh, Jr.

Many of us grew up with a teddy bear. I had one that was so thread-bare it require much and frequent stitching to keep it together. At one point it had iron-on patches to hold this bear together. My mom once remarked that the bear was such a "poor guy" that its name became Poor Guy. Ah, I miss that bear. It was given to me by my maternal grandfather and thus had sentimental value.

But where did the concept and the name "Teddy Bear" come from? We often heard it had something to do with President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. But what was the story behind the stuffed bear and its name?

President Theodore Roosevelt was a man who loved the outdoors. He also loved hunting. But he was also compassionate. He created the national forest and park systems. He also had a soft spot for animals.

Roosevelt had to go to Mississippi to settle a boundary dispute. While there he rode with a group of men on a hunt. Now, I'm guessing the people with him wanted to please the president of the United States. They caught a bear and tied it up, then called Roosevelt so he could "hunt" it. If you think this lacked any sporting morals, so did Roosevelt. He ordered the bear released.

Soon a cartoon of Roosevelt was printed showing Teddy setting the bear free. This aided Roosevelt's popularity. And from this would come the toy we know today.

Rose and Morris Michtom ran a candy store. They also sold a few toys. They were kid-friendly, you could say. One day they decided to make a stuffed bear for children. It was hand sewn and its arms and legs could move. But what should they call their bear? Especially after the first ones they sewed sold quickly.

They decided "Teddy's Bear" would be a good name. But they wanted to be fair and have permission from the man whose name they wanted to use. So the Michtoms sent a stuffed "Teddy's Bear" to the president with a letter asking for permission to use his name, if not his likeness. The president was thrilled to get the bear and agreed they could use his name. The reader will smile at Roosevelt's humility. He didn't believe his name was worth much in the toy bear business. If only he knew, he might have requested royalties.

This is a delightful book about the origin of this famous, all-American toy. The pleasant irony? It is published by Sleeping Bear Press.

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