By Andrew C. | December 24, 2022 in Irish History
Teddy bears have been cherished companions for children and adults alike for over a century. These cuddly creatures have graced our beds, comforted our tears, and accompanied us on countless adventures. But have you ever wondered how these iconic stuffed animals got their name? In today's blog, we're diving into the fascinating history behind teddy bears and exploring the lesser-known Irish connection that played a role in their naming.
The story of the teddy bear begins in 1902 with Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. An avid outdoorsman, President Roosevelt embarked on a hunting trip in Mississippi, where a turn of events would lead to the creation of an enduring symbol of childhood.
During the hunt, a bear was captured and tied to a tree for Roosevelt to shoot. However, the President found the act unsportsmanlike and refused to kill the helpless creature. This act of compassion quickly made headlines, and political cartoonist Clifford Berryman immortalized the moment in a drawing titled "Drawing the Line in Mississippi," published in The Washington Post.
Inspired by the cartoon, Russian immigrant Morris Michtom and his wife, Rose, created a plush bear toy as a tribute to President Roosevelt. They named it "Teddy's bear," and after receiving Roosevelt's permission to use his name, they began selling the bear in their Brooklyn candy shop. The toy was an instant success, and soon Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, which would become one of the largest toy companies in the United States.
Now, you may be wondering, where does Ireland come into the picture? While the Michtoms were creating their first teddy bears in America, a similar movement was taking place across the Atlantic in Ireland.
At the time, Ireland was experiencing an economic downturn, and many of its citizens were struggling to make ends meet. As a way to promote local industry, the Irish Republican activist and suffragette, Countess Constance Markievicz, founded the Irish Industries Association. This organization aimed to encourage Irish craftsmanship and provide jobs for local workers.
Among the various initiatives supported by the Irish Industries Association was the establishment of toy-making workshops. One of these workshops, called the "Irish Workers' Toy Factory," started producing stuffed bears made of Irish wool. It was said that these bears were more lifelike and of higher quality than their English counterparts.
Upon learning about President Roosevelt's story and the popularity of the "Teddy's bear" in America, the Irish toy makers embraced the name as well. They began referring to their creations as "Teddy bears" too, helping to solidify the term in the global lexicon.
Though the history of teddy bears is inextricably linked to an American President, it's fascinating to see how a small corner of Ireland contributed to the naming and popularity of these cuddly companions. So, the next time you snuggle up with your Paddy Pals Bear, take a moment to remember the rich history and the Emerald Isle's role in creating the beloved toy that has brought comfort and joy to generations.