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Steiff family – one of the most successful creators of toy stuffed animals in the world

David Goran

A seamstress named Margarete Steiff, a lady from Giengen, Germany, started making toy stuffed animals as a hobby. In 1880, she founded Margarete Steiff GmBH, a German-based plush toy company.

Born in Giengen, Germany 24th July 1847, she was the third of four children and when she was 18 months old she was diagnosed with poliomyelitis. She spend her life in a wheelchair but that doesn’t stop her to become one of the first and most successful creators of toy stuffed animals in the world.

A seamstress named Margarete Steiff, a lady from Giengen, Germany, started making toy stuffed animals as a hobby. Replica of the first stuffed elephant toy in the Steiff museum. Source 1 Source 2

A seamstress named Margarete Steiff, a lady from Giengen, Germany, started making toy stuffed animals as a hobby – Source. Replica of the first stuffed elephant toy in the Steiff museum – Source

 

Margarete's room. Source

Margarete’s room. Source

In spite of the pain in her right hand, Margarete went to sewing school and she became a seamstress. In 1874 Margarete’s father modified the family home and set up a workroom for her, together with her sisters she began to perform sewing work at home. They became well known and the girls were the first people in Giengen to buy their own sewing machine.

Giant Panda in Steiff museum. Larger Viscose Piggie in Steiff museum. Source 1 Source 2

Giant Panda in Steiff museum/Larger Viscose Piggie in Steiff museum. Source 1 Source 2

In 1877, Adolf Glatz, her cousin’s husband and a manufacturer at the local felt factory, advise her to take the step towards independence. Margarete then opened a ready-to-wear felt clothing business and successfully sold clothes and household articles which she had made.

The first stuffed toy was an elephant, inspired of a felt elephant model in fashion magazine she decided to make eight toys as pincushions for Christmas presents. Soon the cute fabric animals proved to be very popular as children’s toys and in the years following she went on to design many other stuffed toys for children such as dogs, cats, monkeys, donkeys, horses, camels, hares, and pigs.

Replica of the first teddy bear. Richard's teddy bears in museum in Japan. Source 1 Source 2

Replica of the first teddy bear/Richard’s teddy bears in museum in Japan. Source 1 Source 2

Steiff’s nephew Richard joined in 1897 and gave the company the biggest product creating the teddy bear in 1902 the world’s first stuffed toy with moveable arms and legs and he named the toy Teddy after the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

While looking for a suitable material for the fur, Richard found the mohair plush and the bears were amazingly cuddly with big black eyes and soft ears. He presented the teddy bears at the Leipzig Toy fair and they were instantly popular thanks to one American businessman who discovered the bears and placed an order for 3, 000.

Petey teddy bear in Steiff museum. Sebastian teddy bear in Steiff museum. Hans My Hedgehog in Steiff museum. Source 1 Source 2 Source 3

Petey teddy bear in Steiff museum/ Sebastian teddy bear in Steiff museum/Hans My Hedgehog in Steiff museum. Source 1 Source 2 Source 3

The Steiff company motto, as styled by Margarete Steiff, is “ Only the best is good enough for children.” Steiff and Steiff Teddy bears have become synonymous with tradition and quality and their product range was constantly expanded, they have been cleverly pleasing both adults and children for over 130 years.