“Shoot him in the head!”

President Theodore Roosevelt, a hunter of note, visited Mississippi in 1902 in an attempt to bring the South into a more cordial orbit with the rest of the nation. The South was not alone in its outrage over Roosevelt having Booker T. Washington to dine en famille at the White House the preceding October, which still rankled the following November, when Roosevelt came to Mississippi on the invitation of Governor Longingo for a hunt. Bear in mind that formal hunts in those days were often orchestrated slaughters; in Europe deer were rounded up in droves and herded into an enclosure to be massacred by royalty.

So it was that when the President of the United States came to Mississippi to hunt bear, it was made certain that he would have one to shoot and either skin or mount, but the end result was an altogether different type of stuffed bear. Roosevelt hunted, yes; but he was also a conservationist, a naturalist and an outdoorsman as well as a sportsman. After the gamesmen had hunted down and beaten a bear into insensibility, they tied it to a tree and urged Teddy to shoot. He refused. The incident was the subject of a Clifford Berryman cartoon in The Washington Post in November, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi”, which depicts the bear as a cute little cub (something of a slap at the barbarous South), sparking a craze for cuddly toy bears that endures to this day.