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A bear by any other name...

Posted on October 9, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Madisyn Rostro

I have been with the University Museums for almost three years, and I am amazed by the new information that I learn every day. While working on the Farm House 160 exhibition, I learned a lot of information about the variety of objects we have in the collection, and I did find some of the objects that I researched exceptionally interesting. For example, the North Wind chair, the hair wreath, the taxidermy cases, and even something as simple as the Teddy Bear. 

While doing research on my exhibition, I came across the origin of the Teddy Bear. I was surprised to learn that the “teddy bear” was made to honor President Theodore Roosevelt. The story goes that Roosevelt was on a hunting trip with Mississippi's Governor Andrew H. Longino and a couple of Roosevelt’s assistants. Roosevelt had trouble finding a bear to kill, and one of his assistants found a bear and tied it to a tree waiting for Roosevelt to shoot the bear. Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear due to it being poor sportsmanship to kill a tied up animal. The event made the news, and even a cartoon was featured in the Washington Post referencing the event. Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn candy shop owner, saw the cartoon and came up with the Teddy Bear idea. After getting Roosevelt's approval, Michtom would later mass-produce the toy bears that would become popular in America for children and later founded the “Ideal Toy." 

I find this story interesting - originally I knew that the Teddy Bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt, but I had no idea the reason why. I enjoy when new people come to the Farm House Museum and they want to learn more information about the objects we have here. As the exhibition’s curator, it is fun to tell the visitors about the origin of the Teddy Bear and other objects we have and explain why it’s in the Farm House Museum. 

Source: “The Story of the Teddy Bear.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,

IMAGE: Teddy Bear, c. 1910. Gift of Louise Haug. In the Farm House Museum Collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 79.4.2

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