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He’s cuddly, he’s soft, and we love to snuggle with him, and this year, the teddy bear, born right here in Brooklyn, turns 100.

It all began when President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt decided to spare the life of a bear cub orphaned during a hunt. The event became the subject of a Washington Post cartoon, "Drawing the Line in Mississippi." And the cartoon was an inspiration for two Brooklynites, Morris and Rose Michtom.

When the couple, the owners of a toy and novelty store on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, saw the cartoon, they wrote to Roosevelt and asked if they could make a toy bear and name it after him. The president said yes, and the rest is history.

One hundred years later, the Doll and Toy Museum of NYC, located in Middle School 142 (610 Henry St. at Fourth Place in Carroll Gardens) is planning a series of events in November to celebrate teddy bear’s birthday.

The centerpiece of the celebration is the teddy bear exhibit, which will open to the public on Nov. 14. The exhibit has been lovingly created by Marlene Hochman, founder and director of the museum, along with guest curator Koren Stanislaus. It is replete with teddy bears - in boxes, in glass cases, on the walls

A few highlights of the exhibit include a glass case with pictures of Morris and Rose and their first teddy bear, as well as a reproduction of the original bear and the cartoon; an exhibit that shows the way teddy bears are made - pattern, thread, buttons, poly fiberfill, plush or velvet covering fabric; and a wall on which bear-filled boxes show all the places in the world where teddy bears are shipped.

There’s also a tribute to the World Trade Center tragedy, after which the museum donated 300 teddy bears to the families of victims. The exhibit displays letters from children in a school in Pennsylvania "who helped with their own bear [donations]," said Hochman.

"Till this day the kids are pen pals," she told GO Brooklyn.

On another wall, Hochman proudly displays a quilt commemorating the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear, made by her mother, Sandy Alperin, who belongs to a quilting club.

But the kids’ favorites are two dollhouses filled with little bears. There are bears eating in the dining room, grooming themselves in the bathroom and sitting in rocking chairs before the fireplace.

"The kids love it," said Hochman.

The two dollhouses belong to a group of four that were donated to the museum by Pam Paul, who lives in Texas.

"One thousand pounds of dollhouses and dollhouse accessories were shipped," Hochman recalled.

School groups that visit the museum will receive a teacher’s guide containing a history of the teddy bear, a bibliography of books about the teddy bear, and verses on the teddy bear (jump rope song, a poem by A. A. Milne, a lullaby). Both teachers and children will receive a pattern so they can make their own teddy bears.

The museum will kick off the opening of the exhibition with a free community open house on Nov. 14, from 5 pm to 7:30 pm. There will be crafts and activities for the kids, refreshments and the goodwill always present with Borough President Marty Markowitz on the scene.

For invited guests, the museum has scheduled a special tour of the Theodore Roosevelt birthplace in Manhattan on Nov. 12, followed by a reception at the design studio and showroom of the North American Bear Co.

Hochman told GO Brooklyn that members of the Michtom family would be among the guests.

From Nov. 15 through Nov. 25, the museum is holding a fundraiser auction at There will be hundreds of teddy bears to bid on; proceeds will go to the museum.

And what’s a birthday without a birthday party?

On Nov. 16, from noon to 3 pm, the museum will hold the big bash, complete with carnival activities, face painting and activities for the kids. (Admission is $3 adults, $7 children.)

For 100 years the teddy bear - large and small, traditional brown or every color of the rainbow - has been filling our children’s hearts with comfort and understanding, and our homes with joy.

Happy Birthday, Teddy!


For more information about the Doll and Toy Museum of NYC, call (718) 243-0820.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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