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Political Cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman and the Origin of the Teddy Bear

Nov 14, 2018

While countless political cartoonists have depicted Theodore Roosevelt over the years, Clifford Kennedy Berryman (1869-1949) made the most impact on the public's memory of TR as creator of the iconic teddy bear cartoon that is forever linked with Roosevelt.

We recently added a great collection of Berryman's cartoons to our digital library, available here.

Berryman was born in Clifton, Kentucky, to James and Sallie Berryman. In 1893, he married Kate Geddes Durfee and they later had three children, one of whom, James, followed in Berryman’s footsteps to become a Pulitzer-Prize winning political cartoonist. He began work in the late nineteenth century with the Washington Post, and continued as a cartoonist for the Evening Star from 1907 through his death in 1949. With a career spanning numerous presidential administrations, Berryman's cartoons commented on Washington politics, congressional issues, presidential elections, and both World Wars.

In 1902, Berryman created the famous "teddy bear" in his cartoon (right) titled “Drawing the Line in Mississippi.” On a hunting trip with Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino, Roosevelt was determined to nab a bear, but had failed to do so after three days of hunting. The guides tracked down an old black bear that the dogs had worn down, and tied it to a willow tree for the President to shoot, but Roosevelt refused, calling it unsportsmanlike (although it was later put down due to its injuries anyway).

Berryman's cartoon featuring the teddy bear first ran in the Washington Post on November 16, 1902. He continued to use the teddy bear to symbolize President Roosevelt both during and after his time in office. Sometimes the teddy bear was drawn as a side kick to Roosevelt, backing him up during contemporary challenges. At other times, the teddy bear reflected a different side of newsworthy controversy. Berryman also used the small bear to indicate emotions that he could not impute to the president. The teddy bear’s fame prompted Berryman to create a calendar starring different teddy bear drawings for each of the twelve months of the year. His cartoons so popularized the teddy bear that children’s authors promoted it in their stories.

New York candy shop owner Morris Michtom jumped on the trend. Michtom asked permission from Roosevelt to call toy bears that his wife made "Teddy's bears." The stuffed toy's rapid popularity led Michtom and other companies to mass-produce them, and it helped to diminish some of the negative publicity Roosevelt received from that controversial hunt.

Berryman is notable for far more than the teddy bear, though. His corpus of work includes over two thousand cartoons. He was recognized during his lifetime as a keen but kind satirist, one who pilloried policies but not people, and who doled out equal criticism to Democrats and Republicans. In 1944, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons for his cartoon (right) about President Franklin D. Roosevelt entitled “Where is the Boat Going?” 

Again, follow this link to browse Berryman's cartoons in our digital library. 

The National Archives has also put together a great set of resources on Berryman's cartoons, from lesson plans to digital exhibits, that analyze and provide context to the political climate in America over the span of Berryman's long career.

Posted by Karen Sieber on Nov 14, 2018 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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