Recorders of human achievement have not noted the origins of the soft toy known as a stuffed animal or plush figure. Parents probably made the first such toys for their children from animal hide not needed for more practical uses. Historians see what appear to be stuffed animals on the illustrated walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. Other historians claim medieval morality plays of biblical stories about the Garden of Eden and Daniel in the lion's den required the use of something like stuffed animals or taxidermied hides to represent the nonhuman roles.
The idea of a soft toy to play with, however, is relatively recent. In the late 19th century, several American woman crafted cloth dolls to replace the more delicate and breakable ones with china and porcelain heads. These women noted that their soft dolls were better suited for the nurturing kind of doll play they observed in their own children's activities. These handcrafted dolls soon inspired the mass production of cloth dolls and figures on a grand scale.
The making of toy animal figures from plush fabric was not far removed from the cloth dolls, but surely children found much more to like about their soft, furry playthings. Youngsters found comfort in the texture of these toys and in their simple faces of shoe-button eyes and embroidered noses and mouths. Cuddled and cherished, these figures inspired children's fantasies of make-believe adventures and often became their constant companions in reality too. The teddy bear, inspired by the benevolence President Teddy Roosevelt showed towards a bear cub while on a hunting expedition in 1903, became an universal icon of childhood in the 20th century. Plush toys of nearly every other animal have joined the teddy bear in nurseries, playrooms, and children's bedrooms everywhere. These days, plush figures are as popular as ever, and many children have not just a few plush toys but dozens.