Inspired by Theodore Roosevelt and his refusal to kill a bear, the teddy bear craze swept through America. This guide provides access to material related to the "Teddy Bear" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Dismissed as a short-lived fad, the Teddy Bear was so closely tied to Theodore Roosevelt that it was predicted to end with his presidency. Plush toys like “Billy Possum” attempted to usurp Teddy’s legacy but the bear lived on, capturing the hearts of Americans of all ages before quickly becoming the best-selling toy in the nation. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
November 6, 1902
Theodore Roosevelt refuses to kill a bear while hunting, later inspiring a cartoon parody.
Roosevelt meets the parody's creator, Berryman the “Bear Man.”
January 3, 1906
A new illustrated series called “The Roosevelt Bears” debuts in the papers.
The Teddy Bear toy craze picks up steam, with dolls and pets being replaced.
August 4, 1907
A Teddy Bear drama is planned for the stage.
December 15, 1907
The Teddy Bear makes its way onto almost every child’s Christmas wish list.
April 10, 1909
The popular but ultimately short-lived “Billy Possum” challenges the success of the Teddy Bear.
Teddy Bear mania hits England, with the number of bears outnumbering children in that country, and begins spreading to Russia and Japan.
The outbreak of the Great War and resulting restrictions of European imports causes a great boost for the American manufacture of Teddy Bears.