Posts Tagged "Steiff"

What a whimsical photo postcard! A curly-headed lass giving her beloved Teddy Bear a bath!

Most toy collectors know how the teddy bears craze began in the early 1900s.  The stuffed bears rose to popularity after a political cartoon of President Theodore Roosevelt showing him sparing a young cub’s life was circulated. The early toymaker history and culture surrounding this still-popular toy is not as widely known. An article entitled “The History of the Teddy Bear,” by Marianne Clay, describes this history:

By 1906, the teddy bear craze was in full swing in the United States. The excitement probably compared to the frenzy for Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s and Beanie Babies in the 1990s. Society ladies carried their teddies everywhere, and children had their pictures taken with their teddy bears. President Roosevelt, after using a bear as a mascot in his re-election bid, was serving his second term. Seymour Eaton, an educator and a newspaper columnist, was writing a series of children’s books about the adventures of The Roosevelt Bears, and another American, composer J.K. Bratton, wrote “The Teddy Bear Two Step.” That song would become, with the addition of words, “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.”

Meanwhile, American manufacturers were turning out bears in all colors and all kinds, from teddy bears on roller skates to teddy bears with electric eyes. “Teddy bear,” without the apostrophe and the s, became the accepted term for this plush bruin, first appearing in print in the October 1906 issue of Playthings Magazine. Even Steiff, a German company, adopted the name for its bears.

Steiff and Ideal were no longer the only players in the teddy bear business. In America, dozens of competitors sprang up. Almost all of these very early companies didn’t last, with the notable exception of the Gund Manufacturing Corporation. Gund made its first bears in 1906 and is still making bears today.

American teddy bear companies faced stiff competition from all the teddy bears imported from Germany, and many of the U.S. companies didn’t last long. In Germany, toymaking was an old and established industry, and many German firms, such as Bing, Schuco, and Hermann, joined with Steiff in making fine teddy bears.

In England, The J.K. Farnell & Co. got its start; in fact, the original Winnie the Pooh was a Farnell bear Christopher Robin Milne received as a first birthday present from his mother in 1921. Five years later, his father, A.A. Milne, would begin to publish the Winnie-the-Pooh books about his son Christopher’s adventures with his bear and his other stuffed animals. Today you can see the original toys that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh books on permanent display in the Central Children’s Room of the Donnell Branch of the New York Public Library in New York City, while the Pooh books themselves are as popular as ever.

I hope you enjoy this adorable photo!

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!