Steiff Bears: A Peek Through History

vintage steiffSteiff bears have been around for more than a century, 115 years to be exact, but its lavish and interesting history dates further back and today we’ll go on a little trip as we peek through history and see how these iconic toys have began.

1847 – On the 24th of July, Margerete Steiff was born in Giengen Germany. At the time, dolls and wooden toys were all the rage.

1849 – A year and a half later, young Margarete suffered from a severe fever that left both her legs paralyzed and rendered a painful sensation on her right arm. It was later found out that she contacted polio, the infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system and causes temporary or permanent paralysis and immobility, often of the limbs.

1862 – Margarete’s two older sisters set up a dressmaker shop. Ever since, she’s been interested in sewing so she managed to convince them to allow her to work as a part-time seamstress.

1864 – In order to pursue her becoming a seamstress and dressmaker, she attended school and took classes at 17 despite her father’s qualms about it. He was then worried that her state of predicament would make it hard for her. This, Margarete proved wrong. When her sisters got married, they left the shop to Margarete who later converted their family home into a workroom for her projects. Eventually, she managed to save up enough to buy her own sewing machine. Before that, everything was hand stitched.

1879 – On December 8th, an issue of Modenwelt magazine came with an elephant pattern project called the “Elefantle”. Margarete fancied the idea and made miniatures to serve as pin cushions. She later sold them to the women in her village. However, she later noticed that children loved playing with them and so its initial purpose of being a sewing tool was forgotten. This signaled the birth of the Steiff company.

1880 – In just a little over a year, Margarete and her brother Fritz already sold more than 5,000 Elefantles. From here, they started designing and creating lush toys fashioned after different animals.

1890 – The project was such a hit that the two managed to raise enough funds to open Filz-Spielwaren-Fabrik, a manufacturing house. Translated, it means “felt toy manufacturing facility”. Steiff produced plush animal toys like cats, dogs, horses, giraffes, rabbits, donkeys, pigs and mice.

1902 – Steiff Bears were born only after Margarete’s favorite nephew Richard came to the company. He was very fond of bears that he designed a toy in the likes of it. His prototype was then called the “Bear 55PB” with mohair and jointed arms and legs. The rest after that as they say is history.