If You Go Down to the Woods Today...

Cartoon historian Mark Bryant tells how a cartoonist made a President cuddly and sparked the creation of the world’s favourite soft toy.

Children’s dolls, when not in human form, have often been based on cartoon characters, from Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, Bonzo the Dog and Bugs Bunny in the 1920s and 30s to Snoopy, Garfield and Pingu in more recent times. Bears have also been popular – Rupert, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington being celebrated examples. Most of these were originally designed as merchandizing spin-offs from comic strips, children’s books or animated films that were read or watched by children. It is extremely rare for a child’s toy to derive from a political cartoon as these are aimed at adults. However, one of the most popular children’s toys of all time had its origins in a political cartoon published in the Washington Post in 1902. It concerned the Republican US President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), was drawn by the paper’s editorial cartoonist Clifford Berryman, and the soft toy it gave birth to was the Teddy Bear.

Clifford Kennedy Berryman (1869-1949) was the tenth of eleven children of James T. Berryman and was born on April 2nd, 1869, in Clifton, Ken­­tucky in the USA. His father owned a general store and entertained his children by sketching caricatures of local personalities on the shop’s wrapping paper. Clifford inherited his father’s skill at drawing and in 1886 became a draughtsman in the US Patent Office in Washington DC.

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