Theodore Roosevelt was in Mississippi in November 1902, helping local authorities settle a border dispute with Louisiana. There was some downtime on the 14th, when Governor Andrew Longino invited Roosevelt and some other dignitaries on a bear hunt.
The hunt was a high profile affair, attended by a number of reporters, and led by a former slave and Confederate Cavalryman, the famous bear tracker Holt Collier: a man who had killed more bears than Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, combined. Yes, I meant to say that. He was a black man who fought, in uniform and by his own choice, for the Confederate States of America. Real history is so much more interesting than the political or pop culture varieties.
Late in the afternoon, Collier and his tracking dogs cornered a large female black bear. Roosevelt hadn’t “bagged” one yet, and Collier bugled for the President to join him. He would have ordinarily shot the bear when it killed one of his dogs, but Collier wanted the president to get this one. He busted the bear over the head with his rifle, hard enough to bend the barrel, and tied it to a willow tree.
Roosevelt declined to shoot the animal, calling it “unsportsmanlike” to shoot a bound and wounded animal. Instead, he ordered the bear put down, putting an end to its pain.
The Washington Post ran an editorial cartoon, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi”, by Clifford K. Berryman, depicting both the state line dispute and the hunting incident. Berryman first drew the animal as a large, fierce killer, but later redrew the bear, making it into a cute, cuddly cub.
Morris Michtom owned a small novelty and candy store in Brooklyn, New York. Michtom’s wife Rose had been making toy bears for sale in their store, when Michtom sent one of them to Roosevelt, asking permission to call it “Teddy’s Bear”. Roosevelt detested that nickname, but he said yes. Michtom’s bear became so popular that he went on to start what would become the Ideal Toy Company.
In 1972, the weekly journal of the British veterinary profession, the Veterinary Record, ran an article in their April 1st edition. It described the diseases common to “Brunus Edwardii”, a species “commonly kept in homes in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe and North America”. The article reported that “Pet ownership surveys have shown that 63.8% of households are inhabited by one or more of these animals, and there is a statistically significant relationship between their population and the number of children in a household”.
It went on to describe some of them medical afflictions, common to this creature. The article was overwhelmingly popular, except for the usual curmudgeonly contingent, who seem to experience life as a need to complain, in search of a target.
One such was A. Noel Smith, a zany funster if there ever was one, who sniffed, “I have been practising veterinary medicine for the past 12 years or more “across the pond” and my Veterinary Records arrive a month or more late. However, I still open them with interest and read what is going on “at home”. April 1st’s edition thoroughly soured my interest. How three members holding sets of impressive degrees can waste their time writing such garbage in a journal that is the official publication of the B.V.A. is beyond my comprehension, as is your effrontery to publish it under “Clinical Papers”.
I’ll bet he’d be a hoot to have a beer with.
For the record,”Brunus Edwardii”, is latin for Edward Brown. The internet dictionary etymologyonline.com explains the origins of “Brown” as, among others, Dutch, for “Bruin”.
Edward Bruin. Edward Bear. Author A.A. Milne’s proper name, for Winnie-the-Pooh.