A precious image, dating from about 1908, was taken by a Berlin photographer. This beautiful blue-eyed baby is holding a stuffed rabbit. Although I’m not sure, it’s possible that the rabbit is an early felt Steiff stuffed toy.
The Steiff Company is still operating today and is the world’s oldest toy manufacturer. Steiff was founded in 1880 in Germany by Margarete Steiff, whose motto always was “only the best is good enough for children.” The company’s success is quite remarkable considering the fact that Margarete was confined to a wheelchair and only had use of one hand due to a bout with polio as a child. She taught herself to be an expert seamstress and after spending years making felt clothing, she began making elephant pincushions for friends. Children were attracted to these charming pincushions as they were more cuddly than tin toys and more durable than bisque dolls. Margarete soon realized the demand for plush toys and the company’s vision was born!
Lions, dogs, donkeys, and dolls were among the companies first plush toys Steiff produced. The company began producing rabbit toys early on and even produced a “Peter Rabbit” toy in 1905, based on the character from Beatrix Potter’s popular books. The bears that the company would become famous for weren’t produced until 1892. Of course, the company’s official “Teddy Bears,” based on the tale of Theodore Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a baby cub while on a 1902 hunting trip, didn’t come until a decade later.
Collectors can estimate the age of a Steiff toy by the type of identifying button found in its ear. The buttons were often removed by adults before giving the toy to a child, making identifying and dating a toy more difficult for today’s enthusiasts. If the rabbit in the photo is by Steiff, its button has been removed.
In the picture gallery at the bottom, I have included a photo of a similiar Steiff rabbit from the same time period as the photo.
If you’re interested in learning more about Steiff’s history or the history of the various Steiff ear buttons used over the years, visit the links below!
Also, visit the Steiff website to see the wonderful toys the company continues to make today!