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Nobel Peace Prize winner, Medal of Honor recipient, New York City police commissioner, America's youngest president, Mount Rushmore visage, Dakota cowboy, trust-buster – Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, Jr., packed so much living into his 60 years on earth that the phrase "larger than life" sometimes seems to have been coined expressly for him.
But it's as the man who inspired a fluffy bedtime toy that Roosevelt left one of his most enduring legacies. On a hunting trip in 1902 (so the story goes) the young president refused to shoot a black bear – a refusal somewhat at odds with the man's well-earned reputation as a hunter who killed countless birds and beasts, without compunction, for decades. At any rate, a toymaker in New York learned of T.R.'s merciful moment and, inspired, created a toy bear – a "teddy bear." (Roosevelt, incidentally, always despised the name Teddy.) The bear was an immediate hit, and for the past century has remained one of the tried and true emblems of childhood.
In December 1970, LIFE featured a number of adults who, long years after their childhoods had ended, still retained a fondness for the fluffy companions of their youth. The resulting photos by Nina Leen are somehow sweet and, at the same time, just a little bit unsettling.