Sometimes you’re remembered for only one thing even though you’ve done so much more. We know Clifford Berryman as having created a bear named for President Theodore Roosevelt. Yep, the teddy bear.
The teddy bear was introduced as a character in a story about President Roosevelt declining to shoot an old bear. Berryman changed it to a young bear in an editorial cartoon for the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. It’s been a toy ever since.
Starting this month and continuing through August 17th, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. features “Running for Office”, a collection of 44 recently unearthed original drawings of the political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman. It is a look back to a ‘simpler’ time of gentle teasing from his beginning as a cartoonist in 1891 until his death in 1949 at the old Washington Star newspaper. In all he must have drawn nearly 15,000 cartoons in his lifetime, not all of them political.
He knew all the presidents from Grover Cleveland to Harry Truman. His favorite was to draw the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant in the clothes of the era as they made their respective points on taxes, votes, and issues of the day. The Progressive Party symbol was a bedraggled goat, the regular voter was always John Q. Public looking utterly confused. All in all, his work was important and influential enough to have won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1944.
But it was a bear cub that sealed his fate in our national consciousness. It humanized Theodore Roosevelt and brought utter joy to millions of children from then on. Not a bad legacy all around.
Read more about the National Archives exhibit at: