Did You Know the Teddy Bear Was Invented in a Bed Stuy Candy Shop?

Brooklyn-born sculptor Frederick MacMonnies’ daughters, Betty and Marjorie, alongside their governess and teddy bear, in the early 20th century. Photo via the Brooklyn Public Library

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Everything ends up here eventually, but Made in Brooklyn is a column exploring native, born-and-bred borough creations.

The teddy bear, the inspired creation of Russian Jewish immigrants Rose and Morris Michtom, was born in a Bed Stuy candy shop in 1902.

While Rose had long made toys and stuffed animals for the store, located at 404 Tompkins Avenue, the revolutionary bear design was inspired by a political cartoon published in the Washington Post depicting Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt sparing the life of a black-bear cub on a hunting trip in Mississippi.

The Michtoms’ teddy bear, the world’s first, was made of velvet and had shoe-button eyes. It sold after just one day in the shop’s window. Morris reached out to Roosevelt for permission to use his name and, with Teddy’s blessing, the Michtoms began selling the teddy bears as fast as Rose could sew them.

Teddy Bear History Brooklyn Bed Stuy

Morris Michtom and the first ever teddy bear. Photo via If I Only Had a Time Machine

Roosevelt used the Michtom bear as a symbol of his re-election campaign in 1904.

Riding the wave of their success, the Michtoms founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in 1907, mass manufacturing and marketing the bears alongside other Baby Boomer favorites like the Magic 8 Ball, Betsy Wetsy and Howdy Doody.

Today, Rose’s original bear has migrated a bit south of Bed Stuy, to its now-permanent home at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Teddy Bear History Brooklyn Bed Stuy

Clifford Berryman’s 1902 cartoon for the Washington Post. Image via Wikipedia

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