A Steiff bear is no doubt on the frontline of the toy industry for many reasons. Apart from the brand’s undeniable quality in the manufacture of their toys from beginning to end, it’s also no secret that they started it all. Yes, German brand Steiff was the pioneering company to first produce the ever beloved toy we adore then and now.
It’s over a century old but it still has the chops when it comes to these hit cuddly wonders. Ever wondered how it came to be?
It all began with the birth of its founder, Margerete Steiff, in Giengen Germany back in the 24th of July in 1847. At a year and a half old she was diagnosed with polio, an infectious viral disease affecting the nervous system that leads to temporary or permanent paralysis, which caused both her legs to become paralyzed accompanied by a painful sensation on her right arm.
Despite her condition, Maragrete grew to become a happy child who had a certain knack for creativity. Despite her father’s hesitation, she went to school and took up sewing classes that by the age of 17 she has completed her seamstress training. When her sisters opened a dressmaker shop in 1862, she participated as a part-time seamstress. When her sisters married later and left the shop, Maragarete took the reins. A decade later, she has converted what was once their family home into a workroom for her dressmaking projects.
But it wasn’t until December 8, 1879 when the idea of plush toys began. After seeing a photo of a fabric elephant in an issue of the magazine Modenwelt, she decided to use the pattern to make a pincushion in the shape of an elephant which she called as the “Elefantle”. But after selling them off, she noticed that kids played with them instead. This led her to the idea and the birth of the Steiff brand as a toy manufacturer.
In 1880, over 5000 pieces of the Elefantle was sold. With the help of her brother Fritz, they began making more stuffed animal designs and opened a manufacturing house called Filz-Spielwaren-Fabrik.
But it wasn’t until 1902 that the Stieff bears were born. Margarete’s favorite nephew Richard started to help out in the company and designed toys. He was particularly fond of bears that he decided to make a toy like it. Known as the “Bear 55PB”, it was a 5-jointed mohair plush toy with movable arms and legs. Since then, it was an uphill soar.
Check out http://www.steiffteddybears.co.uk for more on Steiff.