Posts Tagged "German Toys over 100 years old"

As you can see from many of my posts, I enjoy antique images featuring children with their toys. This photo, circa 1905, is a great one! Not only does this little gal have two great dolls and a toy horse – she also has a wonderful Schoenhut Toy Piano! What a day of outdoor play she must have had with these toys! I wonder if she and one of the dolls played a duet! Or, perhaps the dog sitting near the piano was the virtuoso!

The Schoenhut company is still in operation today and I have added a history of the company’s early years according to their website,

Albert Schoenhut (1848-1912) was born in Wurtenberg, Germany to a toy-making family. His father and grandfather made wooden dolls, rocking horses, and wagons. At a young age, Albert began making toy pianos in his home. The hammers on the early toy pianos struck a sounding bar made of glass instead of the strings used on real pianos. He later exchanged the glass bars for those made of metal, making the instruments more durable. Albert’s toy pianos, more than just playthings, stayed in tune and were accompanied by sheet music to encourage children to play.

In 1866, John Dahl, a buyer for Wanamaker’s department store, heard of young Albert’s talent and brought the 17-year old to Philadelphia where he worked as a repairman on glass sounding pieces in German toy pianos that had been damaged in shipping.

Albert struck out on his own in 1872, founding the Schoenhut® Piano Company. As his toy piano business grew, Albert added other instruments including a ukulele-banjo, xylophone, and glockenspiel. He also expanded his line to include dolls, circus figures, and toys.

By the time of Albert’s death in 1912, Schoenhut Piano Company® was the largest toy company in America and the first in the United States to export toys to Germany.

I came across a Schoenhut Toy Piano for sale – the same model as shown in the antique photo – on a site specializing in antique dolls. I have included a photo of it below! Visit for more details!

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!

Steiff Company History

History of Steiff Buttons

Also, visit the Steiff website to see the wonderful toys the company continues to make today!