The Birth of the Teddy Bear
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt came to the Mississippi Delta to hunt black bear. He was the guest of Mr. Mangrum owner of Smedes Plantation in southern Sharkey County. The great bear hunter and guide, Holt Collier, was hired to be the president’s guide on this hunt.
On the first morning of the hunt, the dogs hit upon the scent of the bear and the hunt was on. Holt Collier told President Roosevelt where to wait for the bear to come out of the cane brake. The president and his companion, Mr. Huger Foote, waited for the bear to emerge and listened to the barking of the dogs as they pursued the bear. They could tell that the dogs were going in a different direction and decided to return to camp for lunch. Not long after they had left, the bear turned again and eventually came out of the woods almost exactly where Holt Collier had said it would, but the president was not in position to get his shot.
The bear became cornered by the dogs in a slough and turned on them. In its fury, the bear grabbed Holt’s favorite dog, Jocko. Holt Collier jumped from his horse and clubbed the bear with the stock of his gun, stunning the 250 pound bruin. He then threw a rope around the semiconscious creature and sent for the president to shoot the bear.
When the president arrived, he was disappointed to see the addled bear at Holt’s feet. Despite encouragement from the crowd of hunters, President Roosevelt refused to shoot the injured bear stating that it would be unsportsmanlike.
The press went wild with this story of the President, Holt Collier and the bear, and it soon traveled across the country in news stories and cartoons. Morris Mitchom a toy shop owner in New York, wrote the president asking if he could name the stuffed toy bears in his shop “Teddy’s Bears.” The president agreed and before long all stuffed bears were known as Teddy Bears.
Since that time, stuffed toy bears have been called Teddy Bears. This children’s icon was named because of a hunt President Theodore Roosevelt attended in the Mississippi Delta in 1902 where he refused to kill a black bear. The Teddy Bear is the state toy of Mississippi, and each year a different commemorative teddy bear is sold at the Great Delta Bear Affair.