Drawing the Line in Mississippi
By: Clifford K. Berryman
Date: November 16, 1902
Source: AP Images
About the Artist: Clifford “Cliff” Berryman (1869–1949) grew up watching his father draw caricatures to entertain his eleven children. Inheriting his father’s drawing talent—and without ever taking an art class in school—Berryman’s career in cartooning spanned over thirty years, culminating as a chief cartoonist for the Washington Evening Star. In 1902 Berryman was employed as a political cartoonist for the Washington Post, where he drew the famous cartoon “Drawing The Line In Mississippi,” which directly lead to the creation of Teddy Bear stuffed animal toys in honor of a conservation action performed by President Theodore Roosevelt.
This particular cartoon is now housed at Harvard University, who loaned it to the Hermione Museum in Tallulah, Louisiana, where the primary source photograph was taken. Later, in 1944, Berryman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in cartooning for the cartoon “But Where Is The Boat Going,” which showed President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the captain of a rowboat named “Manpower Mobilization.” Besides appearing in newspapers across the country, Berryman’s cartoons have been displayed at many famous locations including the U.S. Library of Congress.
Already known as a sportsman, but also as a man very concerned with preserving the country’s natural resources, Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States, traveled to Smede’s Plantation in Mississippi in November 1902. He supposedly went there to decide a dispute about a wilderness boundary between the states of Mississippi and Louisiana but in all likelihood, he traveled there to hunt black bears.
Legend has declared that aides to the president tied a small bear cub to a tree and that Roosevelt refused to shoot the defenseless animal. Other information tends to show that the hunting party had been unsuccessfully tracking a full-sized black bear for most of the day and later after most of the troop including Roosevelt left for a meal, a hunting guide had found the bear mauling his hunting dogs.
To save his valuable dogs, the man clubbed the bear unconscious with his rifle. When the president was called, the guide had the animal tied around the neck by a rope that was secured to a tree. He asked the president if he would shoot the bear, which Roosevelt refused to do. As his actions proved, Roosevelt abided by a code that disdained the unsportsmanlike killing of defenseless animals.
Whatever happened that day, Berryman drew a cartoon based on the description of the story told by the reporters who were covering the trip. An article about Roosevelt’s hunting trip appeared in the Washington Post on Sunday, November 16, 1902, and the next day Berryman’s cartoon appeared as a front-page feature. Berryman depicted the disgruntled Roosevelt in his hunting outfit with his right hand firmly holding his gun to the ground and his left-hand parallel to the ground with the palm held outward in a forceful stance opposing the killing of the large, angry bear.
The caption stated “Drawing The Line In Mississippi,” which at the time was seen by many political experts to represent Roosevelt’s criticisms of intentional killings (mostly by lynching) of southern blacks by white supremacist groups. Others saw the cartoon as a way to publicize Roosevelt’s real purpose for traveling to Mississippi: to hunt bears. Still, others saw the president as a person who stood solidly on his honest principles. Whatever the reason, President Roosevelt’s popularity increased dramatically because of the attention given to the cartoon.
Publishers across the country decided to highlight the cartoon over the next six years. As the cartoon was distributed, the tone of the cartoon was altered along with the story of Roosevelt’s hunting trip. The large, fierce bear that was tied to a tree was replaced with a small, helpless-looking bear cub being held with a rope by a hunter. In whichever way the public saw the cartoon drawn by Berryman, most public opinions saw Roosevelt as simply protecting wildlife. Today, the original 1902 drawing is nearly forgotten, while the 1906 redrawn version, which was more widely distributed, is the more recognized cartoon of the two.
Although there is some disagreement as to when the teddy bear was first created, most historians believe that a Brooklyn candy store owner by the name of Morris Michtom saw the cartoon and was inspired by Roosevelt to make a pattern of a small toy bear, which his wife Rose then sewed together. The toy was placed in his store window on top of chocolates, along with a copy of the cartoon and a handwritten sign stating “Teddy’s Bear.” The toy bears became so popular that Michtom eventually closed the candy store and founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.
DRAWING THE LINE IN MISSISSIPPI
See the primary source image.
The creation of the teddy bear was just one way of many that Roosevelt was seen as a naturalist, conservationist, and sportsman, with a strong conviction in preserving such natural resources as minerals, forests, and waters. By the time Roosevelt became president, over three-quarters of the nation’s original forests had been cut down, much of the southern and eastern farmlands were tragically overused, and the western states were continually in an arid climatic state. Roosevelt sided with the growing number of conservationists who wanted the land returned to its natural state.
As president of the United States, Roosevelt incorporated the conservation of public lands as a major issue of his administration. After returning from his bear hunt in Mississippi, President Roosevelt proceeded to protect hundreds of millions of acres of public lands from uncontrolled development by private land developers.
He promoted the acquisition and management of public lands and their resources by the federal government. Roosevelt saw the country’s landscape as part of its overall character, a source of wealth and importance, and a necessary way to strengthen and maintain American democracy, along with the country’s economic stability and well being.
Roosevelt was also of critical importance in passing the Newlands Act of 1902, which permitted the federal government the right to implement water management and reclamation efforts (such as the Roosevelt Dam irrigation project) and assist farmers and ranchers in the arid western states; and later helped to establish the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
These large-scale federal efforts transformed the environment and economy of the United States. According to the National Geographic Society, one of Roosevelt’s most significant efforts was the preservation of about 230 million acres of U.S. land, including 150 national forests, fifty-one federal bird reservations, twenty-four reclamation projects, eighteen national monuments, five national parks, and four national game preserves.
During his presidency, Roosevelt wrote: “It is entirely in our power as a nation to preserve large tracts of wilderness … as playgrounds for rich and poor alike, and to preserve the game … But this end can only be achieved by wise laws and by resolute enforcement of the laws. Lack of such legislation and administration will result in harm to all of us, but most of all harm to the nature lover who does not possess vast wealth.”
Cadenhead, Ivie Edward. Theodore Roosevelt: The Paradox of Progressivism. Woodbury, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, 1974.
Gibbs, Brian. Teddy Bear Century. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2003.
Harry Paul Jeffers, Roosevelt The Explorer: T.R.’s Amazing Adventures as a Naturalist, Conservationist, and Explorer. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade, 2003.
Morris, Edmund. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. New York: Modern Library, 2001.
Theodore Rex. New York: Random House, 2001.
Roosevelt, Theodore. “Wilderness Reserves: The Yellowstone Park.” In Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916.
Wilson, Robert Lawrence. Theodore Roosevelt: Outdoorsman. New York: Winchester Press, 1971.
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