The name Teddy Bear comes from one of President Theodore Roosevelt's hunting trips to Mississippi. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already shot something. A suite of Roosevelt's attendants, lead by Holt Collier, cornered, clubbed, and tied to a willow tree an American Black Bear after a long exhausting chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested he shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this un-sportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. While the initial cartoon of an adult black bear lassoed by a white handler and a disgusted Roosevelt had symbolic overtones, later issues of that and other Berryman cartoons, made the bear smaller and cuter.
A Brooklyn store owner, Morris Michtom, saw the drawing of Roosevelt and the bear cub and was inspired to create a new toy. He created a little stuffed bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign that read "Teddy's bear."
Legend has it that Rose wrote a letter to President Roosevelt asking for permission to use his name, "Teddy," for the advertising of their new product. She named it Teddy's Bear and hoped the president would be flattered by the compliment. The legend continues that the president wrote back to the Michtoms, giving his blessing on the name and adding that he was doubtful it would add anything to its popularity. How wrong he was! Eventually, the '''s'' was dropped, and the world took the "teddy bear" to its heart.
The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co., which still exists today.
At the same time, in Germany the Steiff firm, unaware of Michtom's bear, produced a stuffed bear from Richard Steiff's designs. They exhibited the toy at the Leipzig Toy Fair in March 1903 and exported 3000 to the United States.
By 1906 manufacturers other than Michtom and Steiff had joined in and the craze for Teddy Bears was such that ladies carried them everywhere, children were photographed with them, and Roosevelt used one as a mascot in his bid for re-election.
American educator Seymour Eaton wrote the children's book series The Roosevelt Bears, while composer John Bratton wrote "The Teddy Bear Two Step" music which with Jimmy Kennedy's lyrics became the song "The Teddy Bears' Picnic".
Commercially made, mass-produced teddy bears are predominantly made as toys for children. These bears have safety joints for attaching arms legs and heads. They must have securely fastened eyes that do not pose a choking hazard for small children. These "plush" bears must meet a rigid standard of construction in order to be marketed to children in the United States and in the European Union.
By contrast, artist bears are not mass produced and are not intended for small children. In fact, most carry a tag saying that "These bears are intended for an adult market of avid collectors. They are individually created by a whole host of artists around the world. Many of these artists design their own bears as well as making them by hand or stitching them up on home sewing machines. These bears are not mass marketed."
They are available for purchase through the individual artists, specialty shops, web sites, and at art shows, Teddy Bear shows and craft shows across the globe. These bears are almost always jointed with movable heads, arms and legs. The jointing systems to attach these appendages and heads are most often disk and screw or disk and cotter pin combinations but can be done with buttons, simple string, chain or any other method an enterprising artist may devise.
There are also companies that sell handmade collectible bears that can be purchased in stores or over the Internet. Some examples of such companies are Steiff and Original Paka Bear Company.
The "fur" from which these charming creatures are made is as varied and interesting as the bears themselves. Mohair, the fur shorn or combed from a breed of long haired goats, is woven into cloth, dyed and trimmed to produce a fascinating choice for any artist's palette. Alpaca teddy bears are made from the pelt of an alpaca because the fiber is too soft to weave. In addition to mohair and alpaca, there is a huge selection of "plush" or synthetic fur made for the teddy bear market. Both these types of fur are commercially produced.
Some teddy bear artists specialize in the production of bears made from recycled materials. These artists haunt thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales and trash collection centers as well as their own and their families' basements and attics in search of forgotten treasures to be turned into a collector's dream. Old quilts, dresses, fur collars, coats and stoles as well as beaded bags and garments are quickly transformed into stunning teddy bears.
Some other teddy bear artists specialize in crochet bears made out of thread. They are called Thread Crochet Bears. For these bears artists do not use fabric; they make the fabric crocheting and at the same time make the bear. Thread Crochet Bears are fully jointed, miniature bears. Some are even micro, less than 1 inch tall. Thread crochet bears may be made out of crochet cotton thread, Perle cotton thread, Mohair thread, Punch thread, some thin fancy yarn, like eyelash, or any other fiber that can be crocheted.