By Kaleena Fraga
It’s a well known fact that the teddy bear came from the Teddy Roosevelt presidency. Legend has it a friend presented TR with a bear tied up for him to shoot during a hunt. TR refused, saying it was unsportsmanlike to shoot a tied up animal. The story spread, someone had the idea to make a toy from the story, and the teddy bear became wildly popular.
When William Howard Taft became president, conniving minds hatched a plan to launch a new, Taft themed stuffed animal. Because Taft apparently had a penchant for eating possum, it was decided that the Taft version of the teddy bear would be a stuffed toy possum
Hundreds were made, and a campaign was created to take down the teddy bear, but the stuffed possums were a complete flop. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent book “The Bully Pulpit” this was in large part because the stuffed toy looked like a giant rat, and it horrified its intended audience. Still, the whole debacle left us with a legacy of some pretty amazing depictions of President Taft and possums. Some of these toys still exist–they are terrifying.