1903 First Teddy bear goes on sale On this day in 1903, toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution. One of Theodore Roosevelt’s hunting expeditions provided the inspiration for the Teddy bear. Ironically, though he was an avid conservationist, Roosevelt-led hunting trips often resulted in excessive slaughter, including one African trip during which his party killed more than 6,000 animals for sport and trophies. However, the idea for the teddy bear likely arose out of one of Roosevelt’s more compassionate acts. Reports differ as to the exact details of the inspiration behind the teddy bear, but it is thought that while hunting in Mississippi in 1902, Roosevelt came upon an old injured black bear that his guides had tied to a tree. (The age, sex and state of health of the bear remain contested.) While some reports claim Roosevelt shot the bear out of pity for his suffering, others insist he set the bear free. Political cartoonists later portrayed the bear as a cub, implying that under the tough, outdoorsy and macho image of Roosevelt lay a much softer, more sensitive interior. 1812 Wilson Hunt arrives at Astoria, Oregon Having departed St. Louis more than two years earlier, Wilson Hunt and his party stumble into the fur-trading post of Astoria, Oregon. Later romanticized as the archetypal frontier hero in Washington Irving’s novel Astoria, which chronicled the early Far West fur trade, Wilson Hunt was actually a reluctant mountain man. Born in Asbury, New Jersey, in 1783, Hunt was interested in making money, not exploring vast reaches of unknown wilderness. Hunt recognized that the West offered untapped potential wealth for the crafty merchant, and in 1804 he moved to St. Louis where he opened a mercantile establishment. There he caught the eye of the German immigrant John Jacob Astor, who was looking for ambitious young merchants to help launch an American fur-trading operation on the Pacific Coast. Like Astor, Hunt realized there was big money to be made in the western fur trade. When Astor asked him to lead an overland expedition to the mouth of the Columbia River to establish a fur-trading post, he agreed despite his lack of experience in wilderness travel. With a small party of other Astor employees, Hunt departed St. Louis on October 21, 1810, and headed up the Missouri along the route blazed by Lewis and Clark five years earlier. Historians have often criticized Hunt’s leadership of the overland voyage. The inexperienced Hunt certainly made a number of blunders, such as losing the party’s horses while attempting to cross the treacherous Snake River. Yet, Washington Irving and others have suggested that Hunt made the best of difficult circumstances, and he was a cool and competent leader. At the very least, Hunt deserves credit for blazing a route between the Snake River and Columbia River that eventually became a part of the Oregon Trail. On this day in 1812, Hunt and his party finally reached the newly founded town of Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, about 60 miles northwest of modern-day Portland. An ocean-going party of Astor employees had arrived there nearly a year before and constructed the fur-trading post. Hunt remained at the post until 1814, when it was sold to the British, who had occupied the territory since the War of 1812. Giving up the fur trade, Hunt returned to St. Louis, where he prospered in business and real estate and eventually won the job of city postmaster. The remainder of Hunt’s life was marked by none of the excitement he endured during his epic transcontinental journey, and the reluctant mountain man apparently preferred it that way. 1961 U.S. figure skating team killed in plane crash On this day in 1961, the entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team is killed in a plane crash in Berg-Kampenhout, Belgium. The team was on its way to the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Among those killed in the crash was 16-year-old Laurence Owen, who had won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship in the ladies’ division the previous month. She was featured on the February 13, 1961, cover of Sports Illustrated, which called her the “most exciting U.S. skater.” Bradley Long, the 1961 U.S. men’s champion, also perished in the crash, as did Maribel Owen (Laurence’s sister) and Dudley Richards, the 1961 U.S. pairs champions, and Diane Sherbloom and Larry Pierce, the 1961 U.S. ice dancing champions. Also killed was 49-year-old Maribel Vinson-Owen, a nine-time U.S. ladies’ champion and 1932 Olympic bronze medalist, who coached scores of skaters, including her daughters Maribel and Laurence, and Frank Carroll, who went on to coach the 2010 men’s Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek and nine-time U.S. champion Michelle Kwan. In addition to the skaters, 16 people accompanying them, including family, friends, coaches and officials, were killed. The other 38 passengers and crew aboard Sabena Flight 548, which left New York on the night of February 14, also died when the plane went down around 10 a.m. in clear weather while attempting to make a scheduled stopover landing at the Belgian National Airport in Brussels. One person on the ground, a farmer working in the field where the Boeing 707 crashed in Berg-Kampenhout, several miles from the airport, was killed by some shrapnel. Investigators were unable to determine the exact cause of the crash, although mechanical difficulties were suspected. The tragedy devastated the U.S. figure skating program and meant the loss of the country’s top skating talent. Prior to the crash, the U.S. had won the men’s gold medal at every Olympics since 1948 (when **** Button became the first American man to do so), while U.S. women had claimed Olympic gold in 1956 and 1960. After the crash, an American woman (Peggy Fleming) would not capture Olympic gold until 1968, while a U.S. man (Scott Hamilton) would not do so until 1984. The incident was the worst air disaster involving a U.S. sports team until November 1970, when 37 players on the Marshall University football team were killed in a plane crash in West Virginia. Shortly after the 1961 crash, the U.S. Figure Skating Memorial Fund was established; to date, it has provided financial assistance to thousands of elite American skaters. In 2011, the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, the 18 members of the 1961 figure skating team, along with the 16 people traveling with them to Prague, were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado.