Steiff Teddy Bears
The Beginning of Steiff Teddy Bears...or rather just bears for the story starts a Continent away before Teddy Roosevelt was born
Welcome to my Steiff Teddy Bears web page which brings you the history of teddy bears made by perhaps most well known stuffed toy manufacturer
The first commercial concern to create stuffed toys is apparently the Steiff company, In 1847 in a small town in Giengen, Germany a baby girl was born. She was
named Margaret Steiff. Her childhood vigor was cut short when she contracted polio at the age of 2. Although confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life, she
became a model for strength and determination.
Margaret excelled in sewing and needlework and became the proud owner of the first sewing machine in Geingen. In 1879, she started her dressmaking business. Her dresses, coats and other clothing products were quickly in demand. In December of that year she came across a pattern for a toy elephant in a magazine. She made
these as gifts for her family and close friends. Margaret used her expertise to develop other animal patterns and 1883 added them to her price list as a range of felt items. Her business continued to grow and in 1892 she began making soft filled
bears, which would later, after 1902, be referred to as Teddy Bears. These bears resembled real bears, posing on all four paws with humped backs.
Steiff Teddy Bears
Richard Steiff, Margaret's nephew, helped his aunt with design and production of her teddy bears and soft filled animals. An avid art student, he was a regular visitor of the Stuttgart Zoo where he got ideas for animal designs. While touring America, Richard was inspired for a new design during a circus performance. The dancing bears gave him the idea of designing a toy bear which stood upright and was jointed, similar to how dolls were made.
By 1902 the inspiration was reality and Margaret was producing a jointed soft filled teddy bear with mohair plush fur and glass eyes. They were the first jointed teddy bears produced.
In 1903 Richard displayed the new bears at the Leipzig Toy Fair.
Unfortunately they didn't generate much interest in the Europeans. As Richard was packing up his display at the end of the fair, American Hermann Berg chanced by his booth. Berg was a buyer for the New York firm Geo Borgfeldt and Company. At about
this time in America the story of Theodore Roosevelt's 'Teddy's Bear' was becoming popular. Berg placed an order for 3,000 bears.
By 1904 the Steiff teddy bear had become an American success. They were awarded various accolades including the prestigious Grand Prix award. In total 12,000 bears were sold by the end of 1904 with the trademark button in the left ear.
Trademark button in the left ear of Steiff Teddy Bears.
Publicity from Roosevelt's adventure helped place teddy bears in the hearts of Americans where they remain today. The world record price for an antique bear was made at a December 1994 auction. The winning bid was $176,000.00 for a 1905 Steiff teddy bear. Steiff teddy bears continue to leave their marks today in the hearts
of collectors and teddy bear lovers alike.
Margarete Steiff died of pneumonia at the age of 61 on 9th May 1909. Margarete's nephews took over the running of the company. During the tough war and post-war years, Steiff had to adapt its product range accordingly, with substitute fabric being used to a great extent. A kind of cellulose material was used for what became known as the "paper Teddy bear". Furthermore, toys made of domestic woods were included in the product range.
The company resumed production after the end of the Second World War. 12 months later, Steiff has a workforce of almost 1,000, a figure which was to double five years later.
The Teddy bear celebrated its 100th birthday in 2002.
In 2005 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the company, the new Steiff Adventure Museum "Die Welt von Steiff" opened