Sunday, October 16, 2016

Science Proves Why Steiff's Petsy Bear Is Truly Irresistible!

Steiffgal's got a very special houseguest this month - an original late 1920's Steiff Petsy bear. He's visiting the Northeast for a few more weeks, then its off to his new forever home in Europe. Early and original Petsy bears hold a unique place in Steiff collector's hearts. Their adorable looks, charming personalities, and distinctly child-like features really are in a class by themselves in terms of Steiff bear designs. All of this got Steiffgal wondering... is there a scientific reason why this might be the case?

All kidding aside, let's first take a closer look at this blue-eyed baby. Petsy is 43 cm tall, fully jointed, and made from brown tipped mohair, which has faded and thinned significantly in this case. His paw pads are made from tan felt. His pert face comes to life with a prominent center facial seam, oversized blue and black pupil eyes, a pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and proportionally large, wire rimmed ears. His big blue bow, although a delightful accessory, is not original to him. Tipped Petsy had a short, but sweet, appearance in the Steiff catalog, only appearing from 1928 through the very early 1930's. He was made in ten sizes ranging from 15 to 50 cm sitting (or 22 to 75 cm standing.) Tipped Petsy was also produced as a musical Ted in 17 and 20 cm (or 25 and 30 cm standing), on a four wheeled rolling cart in 20 and 25 cm, as a 17 cm puppet, and as a 17 cm purse.

So just what makes Petsy's design so baby-like and absolutely precious? In this case, it's a bit of brilliant business strategy meets science. From the business end of things, Petsy is the vision of Richard Steiff, whose product design priorities and directives in the mid- to late- 1920's included creating colorful patterns with softer, kinder, youthful expressions that reflected the "look and feel" of the roaring, playful 1920's. 

However, few could argue that Petsy is not just appealing, but uber-cute. And that's where the science end of things may help to explain things. According to The Daily Mail's "How It Works" researchers, there is a phenomenon called "baby schema" which makes adults find certain configurations of body proportions on animals, children, and even some inanimate objects absolutely irresistible. From an evolutionary perspective, this may reflect the universal need to care for and protect our youngsters. Seeing cute things also releases dopamine, a neurochemical responsible in part for making us all feel good. Doesn't the cute photo on the left of the puppy and kitten make you smile?

According to scientists, these "cute" features include:

  • A wide, prominent forehead 
  • A proportionally large, round, symmetrical head 
  • Big eyes placed low on the face 
  • Soft textures 
  • Rounded body and features 
Petsy gets an A+ in meeting these requirements. His forehead is quite distinctive, and further emphasized by his center seam. His head is round and absolutely symetrical. His eyes are large, wide, and placed relatively low on his face. His brown tipped mohair is very soft and fluffy, and invites touching. And his chubby proportions and almost completely round ears complete the package. 

But the science of "cute" also has practical implications for Steiff collectors. According to another published study from research conducted in Japan, people did better on tasks requiring focused attention better after viewing cute images - those that met the scientific criteria listed above. The findings of the work suggest that cute things may be used as "an emotion elicitor to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work."  So, given this is true, Steiffgal suggests always having a dear Steiff friend close at hand to insure you do your very best... and that every day should be Take Your Teddy To Work Day!  

Steiffgal hopes this article helped to add a little dopamine to your day!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Sitting Pretty With This Rare And Unusual Prewar Steiff Sealyham Dog

Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable! Today's Steiff find really takes sitting down on the job to a new level - in the best way possible. Check out this remarkable sitting Sealyham and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Let's paws and check out sitting Sealy's details.  This white wonder is 22 cm tall, head jointed, and made from very long white mohair, which has mellowed to a vanilla color. He has three black claws on each of his padless paws, and a pert little tail. His adorable face comes to life with a fuzzy muzzle, oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. There is just a trace of pink airbrushing on his mouth, as often seen on Steiff's dogs. His prominent, triangular shaped ears are lined in tan felt. He retains his long trailing "f" button as his Steiff ID. When he left the factory in Giengen he wore a leather collar with a bell; unfortunately these accessories have been lost to time. Sitting Sealy was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22, and 25 cm from 1930 through 1939. 

The Sealyham breed was considered one of the more stylish and desired breeds of the late 1920's and early 1930's. As such, Steiff created several versions of this "it" dog. In addition to this sitting style, Steiff also produced a similar standing model. The standing version came in eight sizes ranging from 8 to 35 cm and appeared from 1930 through 1943. Pre-1943, Steiff made numerous Sealyhams on wheels, a tail turns head version, a few nomotta wool woolen miniature or "woolie" Sealyhams, and a 30 cm Sealyham night dress bag. Sealyhams were produced again immediately after the factory reopened for business in the late 1940's. However, only standing examples were produced. These models, which appeared through 1957, had very minor if any changes in fundamental design from the model launched in 1930.

This Sealyham pattern was introduced during what could only be called Steiff's "dog days." This period began in the mid-1920's with the introduction of the company's "Molly the Puppy" pattern. Molly's 1925 debut proved so popular that she is credited for opening the floodgates to a huge influx of Steiff dog designs, including Sealyhams and their black mohair Scotty "cousins." (If you look at the photo on the left, you can see several similarities between sitting Sealy and Molly, including their identical oversized eyes, gentle expressions, and body positions and general presentations.) Between 1925 and 1938, close to 40 new canine species were noted in the Steiff catalogs. These included the now classic Bully Bulldog, Arco the German Shepherd, and Peky the Pekinese, as well as some lesser-known designs including Cheerio, the laughing dog, Putzi, a caricatured standing dog, and Lord the Great Dane.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this rare and unusual sitting Sealyham has been a welcome respite in your busy day.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

It's Twice As Nice With These Two Steiff Tabby Cats From The Late 1920's

Although by nature more of a "dog" person, Steiffgal has started to put a few more Steiff kittens into her meow mix lately. Her most recent additions have something in common - they are both sweet "Tabby" style cats from the late 1920's. Check out these two fantastic felines and see if they have you "feline groovy" too.

Standing Tabby in all of her glory.
This first Tabby has a purr-fectly angelic look to her. She is 10 cm tall, standing on all fours, is head jointed, and made from tan mohair that has been striped with orange highlights. Her limbs and tail are elegant and shapely Her face comes to life with oversized teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of red right on her lips. She has a particularly inquiring look on her face. This Tabby even retains a few of her original monofilament whiskers remaining on her muzzle and forehead. This cool cat was made in mohair in 7, 10, 12, 14, 17, and 22 cm from 1928 through 1937.

Lying Tabby closely observing something.
The second Tabby appears to be lying down on the job, but that's ok in this case. She is unjointed and measures 5 cm tall and 10 cm long (not including her tail.) She is lying in a very relaxed way, as if she's observing something very interesting in the room - perhaps a dust bunny, or a window shade moving in the breeze? Tabby is made from tan mohair that is striped in more tan or light brown colored highlights. Her sweet face comes to life with oversized light teal and black slit pupil style glass eyes, a light pink hand embroidered nose and mouth, and a spot of red right on her lips. She retains most of her original monofilament whiskers. Lying Tabby, in all honesty, was made in 8 sizes ranging fro 5 to 20 cm from 1928 through 1935.

Close up of standing Tabby's face.
Both of these Tabby patterns reflected Steiff's approach to cat design and production in the 1920's. It was at this time that the company started diversifying their cat offerings, as well as matching their cats’ appearances to the cultural preferences of the time. Steiff’s cats from the mid-1920’s onward were distinctly feminine, fluffy, and playful in appearance - much like all things popular from the “roaring ‘20s.” Felines from this period often had oversized, childlike eyes; were made from brightly colored materials; and had youthful detailing or textures. They were in great demand both as playthings for children as well as companions for adults. It is also interesting to note that it was at this time that the company began giving “real” names to its cat designs, with the first one being “Fluffy,” a blue-tipped mohair sweetie who was introduced in 1926. Prior to that, any cat in the line was simply named “Cat." Fluffy was a smashing success, and remains a collector's favorite today.

Close up of lying Tabby's face.
It is safe to say that Fluffy let the cat out of the bag in terms of creating a huge demand for Steiff's cat offerings. As such, Steiff quickly followed up on Fluffy’s popularity with a number of additional cat introductions. Like Fluffy, these were all designed and named to evoke softness, gentleness, and cuddling. These included the adult “Kitty,” who was standing on all fours, fully jointed, and featured a “tail moves head” mechanism; baby “Tabby,” who was standing on all fours or lying; the exotic, blue eyed, sitting “Siamy” Siamese Temple cat; and “Susi,” a very pretty sitting, head jointed tabby cat. Kitty, Tabby, Siamy, and Susi were all manufactured through the early 1940’s. And due to their popularity, they all reappeared in the line in the late 1940’s after the factory reopened for toy making business at the conclusion of WWII.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's early Tabby cats has made for a pleasant paws in your day.  

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This Remarkably Costumed Steiff Doll Is Rarer Than Hen's Teeth!

How egg-citing is this?! That was egg-actly Steiffgal's response when she was presented with this most remarkable Steiff rarity.  Check out this not so "Spring Chicken" doll and see what makes her so egg-straordinary from the design and historical perspectives.

Bird's the word with this fantastic Steiff doll which dates from the early part of the 20th century.  She wears what can only be described as a fitted "mohair chicken suit." This most unusual costume cannot be removed from her body and is detailed with sleeves finished like wingtips and a hood featuring a red felt comb and a top and bottom yellow felt beak. Her legs are bare, and it is unclear if she is wearing any undergarments. Steiffgal has never seen anything like this before, have you?

This costumed cutie appears to be one of Steiff's "children" style dolls that debuted in the line around 1908-09. These beloved dolls are best known for their realistic proportions, charming personalities, and angelic faces. They are made from felt, solidly stuffed and fully jointed, and have youthful facial details - including a center seam, pert expressions, rosy complexions, mohair wigs, and black button eyes (the earliest models) or glass pupil eyes (from about 1910 onward.)  Both little boys and little girls were produced, in sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm over time. All of these standard line children dolls were dressed head to toe in handmade outfits that ranged from school clothes to sporting attire to “Sunday best”; for the most part, girl models also came with matching hats.  Except, of course, for this novel example!

Although Steiffgal has only seen this doll through pictures, and not firsthand, it is her thinking that the chicken suit is most likely original to Steiff. This suspicion is based on three somewhat random and historical facts and coincidences.  These include:

Time frame and concept. There is historical precedent for Steiff to make childlike dolls in mohair suits and costumes, especially in the early 1900's. For example, the company produced a series of fully jointed felt Eskimo dolls from 1908 through 1919. These were made to piggy-back on the commercial excitement surrounding Admiral Peary's race to the geographic north pole. An example of an early Steiff Eskimo doll is pictured here on the left; you can see the similarities in appearance, materials, and presentation between this model and the one under discussion today. 

Materials: The mohair used on the costume is perfect in terms of its scale and texture to resemble feathers. It is also quite playful, and gives the piece a most delightful appearance. It is interesting to note that the same yellow mohair was also used for the same "lighthearted" purpose on another beloved Steiff character doll of the time, Puck the Gnome, who is pictured here on the left. This petite treat was made in 20, 30, and 40 cm from 1914 through 1943.  Although his clothing changed and evolved over his three-decade long appearance in the line, his cheerful yellow mohair cap remained a constant in his design. 

Culture:  For some reason that Steiffgal cannot exactly figure out, dressing up like barnyard fowl was a popular trend in the 19-teens and early 20's. Both adults and children seemed to enjoy doing so, with costumes ranging from simple head wear to head to toe feathers! In 1919, Ladies Home Journal featured an article on party costumes designed after chickens, owls, and peacocks!  This remarkable story is pictured here on the left for your enjoyment.  Net-net, dressing a Steiff doll as a chicken - although a little out of the ordinary today - was not out of the question almost 100 years ago, and Steiff indeed has a strong legacy of reflecting what's happening in the popular culture in its products and designs.  

Another chicken and egg question is, "what's the back story to this adorable doll?" As far as Steiffgal can tell, she does not specifically appear in any Steiff or doll reference books, and there is no formal history on her.  As such, we can only speculate how she came to be.  Here are a few possible scenarios. Perhaps she was created as a sample or trial, and never put into production.  She could have been originally made as part of a one of a kind special order or window display.  She also might have been made as a "whimsy" or "end of day" item - these are one of a kind pieces that Steiff employees created on their own on work breaks or before or after formal work hours just for fun.   Unfortunately, only she knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fantastic Steiff dressed doll has been more entertaining than a chick flick for you.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.
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