Thursday, June 6, 2013

Environmental History Timeline November, 1902

The Birthday of the Teddy Bear, November, 16 1902.

The Teddy Bear, early icon of wildlife conservation that has lost its historical identity and is fading from familiarity, was launched by a turn of the century cartoon. Teddy Roosevelt is illustrated eschewing taking a tethered bear, asserting sportsmanship, a fair chase offering wildlife a fair chance.

Drawing the line in Mississippi, a cartoon by Clifford Berryman, Washington Post. A jaunty T. R. eschews shooting a tethered bear cub. Berryman exaggerated an incident reported during a celebrity bear hunt held for Roosevelt in Mississippi. The first issue of same illustrated a large old bear, the cute cub is a redo. T. R. championed conservation, critics labeled his ilk "kit-gloved sportsmen."

Teddy Roosevelt, sportsman President, championed conservation of wildlife, forests and soil from his bully pulpit and launched a new era of federal conservation progress. Roosevelt rose to prominence in a muscular era of heavy industrialization and increasing urbanization. A growing U.S. population, disconnected from wilderness and even from rural experience, suffered under the overwhelming demands of unregulated robber-baron ruled heavy industry. Common experience surrounded urban workers in cacophonous industrial clatter and a haze of gagging coal and oil smoke. Hours were very long for adult and children workers in sweat shops; sanitation, health care, recreation were non-existent: a living hell. Advantaged families and social leaders watched suffering and loss from the side-lines as wild America was carried away by rail and consumed under inky smoke belched by industry. A modern lyric refrain repeats continuing American experience: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone."

Progressive social movements and a nostalgia for wilderness and pioneer experience related by still-living witnesses coalesced in a Progressive Era in politics, improvements in the workplace,  and the expanding federalism of resources conservation and of the growing sportsman conservationist movements ending widespread commercial slaughter of wildlife. The Teddy Bear was a warm fuzzy feeling for wildlife in the experience of advantaged youth in the United States and beyond.

The story of the Teddy Bear's founder entrepreneur is detailed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.