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November 14 is National American Teddy Bear Day

Today is National American Teddy Bear Day, whereas September 9th is National Teddy Bear Day. Why? We think it’s because one holiday isn’t enough to contain the cuddly stuffed animal’s cuteness.

Here’s what we do know: teddy bears got their name from Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States.  The date coincides with a hunting trip in November 1902.

The governor of Mississippi invited President Roosevelt to a bear hunt, but after three days, Roosevelt hadn’t spotted one. To keep the president’s trip from ending in failure, the guides set the dogs loose; they tracked down an old black bear and attacked it.

The guides brought the wounded bear back to camp and tied it to a tree for the president. When Roosevelt saw the old bear he refused to shoot it because to do so would be unsportsmanlike. However, since it was injured, Roosevelt directed the men to put the bear down to end its suffering.

Word traveled quickly across the country. The Washington Post ran this headline on November 15, 1902:

PRESIDENT CALLED AFTER THE BEAST HAD BEEN LASSOED,
BUT HE REFUSED TO MAKE AN UNSPORTSMANLIKE SHOT

Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman drew a single panel that appeared in the Post the next day. In it, the president stands in the foreground, a guide and bear behind him. Berryman depicted the bear as a cub trembling with fear. He began to include the cub in other drawings of Roosevelt, forever linking him to bears.

national american teddy bear day

Morris Michtom, a Brooklyn candy shop owner,  saw Berryman’s cartoons and was inspired to make a stuffed bear. Michtom wrote to Roosevelt and asked his permission to call the toy “Teddy’s Bear.” Although the president agreed to lend his name to the new invention, he is said to have doubted it would ever amount to much in the toy business.

The runaway popularity of the cuddly bears led Michtom to mass-produce them, forming the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company in 1903. It soon became a multimillion-dollar business.  By 1908, the toy had become so popular that a preacher in Michigan warned that replacing dolls with toy bears would destroy the maternal instincts of little girls. If that were true, there would be no one left to read (or write) this.

A Teddy’s Bear made in 1903 is owned by The National Museum of American History. It’s in perfect condition.

national american teddy bear day

Happy National American Teddy Bear Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

September 16 is World Play-Doh Day

world play-doh dayToday is World Play-Doh Day. On September 16, 2006, Hasbro created National Play-Doh Day to honor its 50th anniversary. In 2015, it kicked the unofficial holiday up a notch by going global. Today we celebrate the 61st anniversary of Play-Doh and the third World Play-Doh Day.

Noah McVicker of Cincinnati-based soap manufacturer Kutol Products invented the stuff in 1933 for Kroger Grocery, which requested a non-staining, reusable product to clean coal residue from wallpaper. (He cribbed the putty’s recipe—boric acid, mineral oil, flour, water and salt—from homemakers who had been whipping up their own since some time in the 19th century, but never mind.) Kroger was happy and the company flourished for several years.

During World War II, the production of planes, ships, and motor vehicles increased the demand for fuel. Oilfields in Texas and Oklahoma pumped out so much that very little gasoline or diesel had to be imported. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between in 1945 and 1960, the number of cars on U.S. roads increased by 60 percent.

Why does this matter? With the increased availability of low-cost fuel, gas- and oil-fired forced air furnaces began to replace the dirty, labor-intensive coal furnace. Less soot translated to lower profits for Kutol Products. The introduction of washable vinyl wallpaper in 1947 dealt the business another blow. By the mid-1950s, it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.

Kutol hired Joe McVicker, Noah’s nephew, to save the company from insolvency. Joe’s sister-in-law Kay Zufall mentioned to him that she used the cleaner as a cheap toy for kids in the nursery school she ran. He took her advice to add coloring and remove the detergent, then decided he would call it “Kutol’s Rainbow Modeling Compound.”

Kay talked him out of it; her husband Bob helped her come up with the name “Play-Doh.” They received no credit or payment. Kay said that making children happy was thanks enough. Due to her influence, schools across Cincinnati bought the product but Kutol quickly ran out of new customers. With no money for marketing, Joe convinced Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo, to use Play-Doh once a week on his show in exchange for two percent of sales.

Since then, Play-Doh formula has passed through many hands over the years and now belongs to Hasbro. Although it won’t reveal any ingredients other than salt, water and flour, Hasbro’s 2004 U.S. patent for “starch-based modeling compound” shows it contains water, a starch-based binder, a retrogradation inhibitor, salt, lubricant, surfactant, preservative, hardener, humectant, fragrance, color, borax and a petroleum additive to make it feel smooth.

Its high salt content reportedly won’t hurt curious children who take a nibble, but it can be toxic and potentially fatal to a pet that eats a stomachful of it.

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There is a way to evoke happy childhood memories without carrying a lump in your pocket: Play-Doh cologne. Demeter Fragrance Library, the maker of such classic scents as Lobster and Funeral Home, has distilled the essence of Play-Doh.

Don’t be surprised if the scent inspires an admirer to pull on your pigtails. (Apparently, little boys used to do that to little girls they liked, but we can’t find anyone who’s seen or done it.) Guys, it’s unisex, so if you spritz it on, don’t be surprised if someone pulls on your man-bun.

Happy World Play-Doh Day, everybody!

PS: For a funny look at this holiday, including a PG-13 Captain Kangaroo legend, check out Happy World Play-Doh Day on Magick Sandwich.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Ducktona 500

ducktona 500Today is the 29th annual Ducktona 500 in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. Hundreds of numbered rubber duckies will be dumped into the Sheboygan River and race downstream to win $1,000 for the lucky holder of the corresponding raffle ticket.

For 26 of those years, the races were illegal. In 2013, the Wisconsin Department of Justice warned the village of Mishicot that its annual duck race constituted gambling, outlawed in the state.

On April 16, 2014, Wisconsin governor and future failed presidential candidate Scott Walker took time from his busy schedule of union-busting, protesting the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, opposing immigration and denying the need for climate change regulations to sign a law creating an exemption for duck races, similar to ones already enacted in Minnesota and Michigan.

Thank you, Governor Walker, for making Wisconsin safe for rubber duckies and the people who race them.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

National Yo-Yo Day

national yo-yo day

Greek boy with yo-yo, 440 BC

Today is National Yo-Yo Day, created by Daniel Volk in 1990 to celebrate the birthday of Donald F. Duncan (1892-1971), whose company popularized the toy.

A simple yo-yo resembles a small spool with a string knotted around a center groove or axle. Holding the free end of the string, one uses spin, gravity and momentum to cause the yo-yo to unwind and rewind. While it travels back and forth easily, the knot prevents it from doing sophisticated tricks.

The first known painting of a yo-yo is on a Greek vase from approximately 440 BC. Illustrations from 18th-century Northern India and France show adults playing with yo-yos.

In 1928, Pedro Flores moved from the Philippines to Santa Barbara, CA, and opened the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company. His design had a doubly-long string, twisted to make a loop that would slip around the axle, enabling a range of motions and configurations. By November 1929, Flores had three factories which produced a total of 300,000 units per day.

Soon afterward, Donald F. Duncan purchased Flores’ company and trademarked the name “Yo-Yo.” In 1965, he sued Royal Tops Manufacturing Company for using the name and a federal court of appeals rescinded his trademark, ruling that “Yo-Yo” had become a common part of speech. As a result of the suit and associated legal bills, Duncan sold the company three years later. He died in a car accident in 1971.

Side note: Companies are required to keep their brand names from becoming genericized. Every mention of Kleenex includes “tissues.” Nintendo pushed the term “games console” to protect its name. Band-Aid changed its jingle from “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me” to “I am stuck on Band-Aid Brand, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” Google sends cease-and-desist letters to anyone who uses the term “googling.” What could Duncan have done to prevent people from saying they were “yo-yoing”?

Daniel Volk, a Yo-Yo Master who appeared on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 1960s, created National Yo-Yo Day in 1990 as a tribute to Donald F. Duncan. The Duncan Yo-Yo was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, NY, in 1999.

To see a world-class performance, watch this 2013 TED Talk by Japanese yo-yo artist BLACK, a two-time world champion who quit school to become a professional performer and landed a one-day part in Cirque du Soleil. Did anyone in the exceedingly earnest, reverent audience so typical of TED Talks think, “While I’m amazed by his talent and filled with joy at his story of hope, when I return to my life of relative comfort and privilege, how will he make a living with a yo-yo”? Or simply, “What’s for lunch?”

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays