One November 14, 1902, the 26th President of the United States of America went on a hunting trip in the Mississippi with Mississippi Governer Andrew H. Longino. After a taxing chase of both hunters and their hounds, one wild black bear was cornered and tethered. The hunting team offered the killing shot to President Theodore Roosevelt, who declined, deeming it unsportsmanlike. The incident inspired a political cartoon, where the grown black bear would be redrawn as a mere cub, and this in turn inspired the production of “Teddy’s Bear” stuffed toys.
Since then, many other species have become popular stuffed toy. Beatrix Potter’s rabbit characters, for example. In the 1960’s, the Yamanashi Silk Company in Japan produced silk slippers and rubber sandals. Noticing the sales growth when these sandals were accessorized, the management began hiring cartoonists to make cute characters that could serve as accessories. This became the Sanrio Company. The popularity of Hello Kitty (and other friends from the Sanrio franchise, Kerokerpi the frog, and Badtz-Maru the penguin) revived a tradition of handmade knitted soft toys, made to resemble these cute baby animal characters.
In 1993, the Beanie Babies franchise launched an entire menagerie of soft toys. They had a heavy, grainy feel due to the use of plastic pellets rather than cotton stuffing. Nowadays, some popular soft toys even incorporate electric and robotic features, such as the Tickle Me Elmo, based on one of the fuzzy marionette puppets on the famous television series Sesame Street. Some soft toys have even made changes to the long tradition of imitating animals and characters, such as the Pillow Pets, which fold and can be strapped down in certain ways to turn from a soft toy into a pillow.
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