3. 404 Tompkins Avenue is the birthplace of the Teddy Bear

404 Tompkins Avenue Teddy Bear invention in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

404 Tompkins Avenue, today an unassuming storefront, was actually where the Teddy Bear was created. President Theodore Roosevelt was invited on a hunting trip in Mississippi, during which a black bear was captured and tied to a tree for Roosevelt to kill. Political cartoonists jumped at the opportunity to depict Roosevelt as a lifesaver who refused to kill the bear, and eventually the illustrations began to show the heroic Roosevelt sparing a baby bear cub.

Rose and Morris Michtom, two Russian Jewish immigrants who had a storefront at 404 Tompkins, were so inspired by the cartoons that they made a bear stuffed animal to sell alongside their collection of candy and toys. The bear was velvet with shoe button eyes, and Morris soon after called it the “Teddy Bear” in honor of the president. Roosevelt gave the couple permission to use his name for the product, and contrary to Roosevelt’s own expectations, the bears sold out extremely quickly. They were so popular that the Michtoms sold the store and started selling Teddy Bears full time through their Ideal Novelty and Toy Company, which prompted Roosevelt to use the Michtom bear for his re-election campaign in 1904. Richard Stieff in Germany also invented his own version of the Teddy Bear at around the same time, unaware of the Michtoms’ creation.