You might be familiar with the story of how the teddy bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. After refusing to shoot a defenseless (and already maimed) bear, the incident was forever immortalized in a November 1903 newspaper cartoon. The compassionate depiction of Roosevelt captured the hearts of Americans, including a particular Russian Jewish immigrant couple in New York.

Shop owners Morris and Rose Michtom ran a small penny goods store in Brooklyn. After seeing the famous newspaper cartoon, Rose was so inspired she created a plush bear to put in their store window and named him “Teddy’s bear.” Dozens of shoppers began asking if the bear was for sale, and Rose became worried about marketing an item using the president’s name, so Morris mailed the original to the White House with a letter asking permission. Roosevelt doubted it would matter much and consented, giving rise to one of the most famous toys in history. Today, one of the original Michtom bears is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Photo: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.