Bob buys bears to warm Phyllis's heart by Bob Karolevitz I�ve finally found a pet animal I can love. It�s a stuffed bear.
He doesn�t have to be fed. I don�t have to take him to the veterinarian, and he doesn�t need a litter box.
The nice thing, too is that Phyllis has a collection of stuffed bears which I can enjoy without otherwise becoming involved. They�re all over the house: white ones, brown ones, black ones and one lone red one.
The latter is a Valentine�s gift I bought for her. That�s another reason why I like stuffed bears. All I have to do is buy Phyllis a cuddly bruin and I�m home free. It sure saves thinking about what to get her.
Right now most of her collection is covering up our electric organ (which we don�t play anyhow). Grandson Sam calls them �Grandma�s choir.�
One thing is missing, though. She doesn�t have an honest-to-goodness Teddy Bear!
America�s most popular toy � more than a hundred million of them have been made through the years � was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. But there are several versions of how it came about.
The first and most credible one happened almost a century ago this year. Roosevelt, who already had a reputation as a big game hunter, supposedly refused to shoot a bear because it was just a cub. (Another writer called it �an old lame, partially blind� one.)
At any rate, Clifford K. Berryman of the Washington Star liked the idea of a macho president who wouldn�t take advantage of a helpless animal, and he drew a cartoon depicting the incident. That, they say, was the beginning of the craze in the United States.
Morris Michtom, described as a Brooklyn candy store operator, saw the drawing when it appeared in the New York paper and had his wife, who was handy with a needle, make several of the honey-colored toy bears. He placed three of them in the window of his store along with the cartoon, and almost immediately customers wanted to buy one. Rose Michtom then began producing them on a small scale.
Her husband sent one to President Roosevelt and asked him if it was all right to call them �Teddy Bears.� The Rough Rider kept the toy and wrote a hand-written letter in reply, giving his permission.
With that, a new industry was born. The Ideal Toy Company was established, and when Morris Michtom died in 1938, his firm was turning out something like 100,000 Teddies a year.
He was mourned as the father of the famous bruin � but then the Steiff Company of Germany contested the distinction. As early as 1897 it seems that firm was making stuffed toys, and a bear of theirs apparently had been a feature at a White House reception during the Roosevelt administration. Steiff said a guest called it a new species of Ursus americanus named Teddy.
So the genesis of the stuffed bear, cherished by children, and adults alike, ended up in controversy. But, no matter what, its popularity has grown tremendously long after President Roosevelt�s involvement � take your choice of the version! � has almost been forgotten.
Collectors are now in the act. A 1904 Steiff model sold for $8,237 at a Southby auction, and the price may have gone up on eBay.
All I know is that I�m putting a Teddy Bear on Phyllis�s gift list. It probably won�t be an original Michtom, though.
� 2002 Robert F. Karolevitz