Roosevelt Bears Pitcher Artifact Highlight #50

This ceramic pitcher was donated to our collection in 1973. It was produced by the Buffalo Pottery Company in 1907. It has a rectangular body and handle, and a narrow spout. It is covered with brown and polychrome transfer vignettes and quotations from The Roosevelt Bears, a series of children’s books written in 1905 by Seymour Eaton and illustrated by Floyd Campbell.

It is cracked and has been repaired. It is eight inches high. There is a brown transfer mark on base with "Buffalo Pottery, 1907, Copyright Edward Stern & Co., Underglaze Warranted".

The Buffalo Pottery Company was founded by the Larkin Soap Company of Buffalo in 1903.

Initially the company produced inexpensive pottery that was given away with soap purchases as part of their marketing plan. It was the first American-based company to produce a line of Blue Willow ware, an English interpretation of the Chinese decorative style popular at the end of the 18th century.

Larkin Soap Company Blue Willow Ware

The pitcher was created in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt and inspired by his bear hunting trip to Mississippi in 1902. After a few days of hunting and no bears in sight, the organizers trapped a bear and tied it to a tree so that Roosevelt could shoot it. Roosevelt refused considering it unsportsmanlike. News of his gesture spread quickly, and a cartoon of the event was published in the Washington Post.

Washington Post, November 16, 1902. Cartoon by Clifford Berryman.

It inspired Morris Michtom, a toymaker and owner of the Ideal Toy Company, to produce a toy bear called “Teddy’s bear.”

Bear formerly owned by Kermit Roosevelt, thought to be made by Morris Michtom, early 1900s; Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 2012

In 1905 Seymour Eaton published a serialized story in the newspapers, and in 1906 he published a series of children’s books inspired by the events called “The Roosevelt Bears, Their Travels and Adventures,” in which two bears leave their home in Colorado to explore the human world.

Seymour Eaton, 1906

The Roosevelt Bears became very popular and their images were used on toys, postcards and trinkets.

Los Angeles Evening Post, December 19, 1908

The pitcher was donated by Amy Rasmussen of Auburn. Rasmussen worked for the Auburn Title Company, Chamberlain and Chamberlain Law Firm and Retailers Credit Association. She was a member of the Azalea Rebekah Lodge No 117 and a chairman, second vice president and membership chairman of the Placer Arts League.

Auburn Journal, November 25, 1984

Rasmussen and her husband Finn were cross-county ski racers and members of the Auburn Ski Club, the only husband and wife ski competitors in California. She was the first native-born Californian to win state title.

Background Image: Auburn Journal, September 24, 1976