Over the 130-year history of the company, these playful pranksters have appeared in just about every form you can imagine. They have been produced as dolls, ball-dolls (figures with a goofy ball shaped bodies and "normal" limbs), musical figures, pom-pom characters, skittles (perched on wooden pins for a bowling style game), and roly-polys (on half-spheres that wobble about). From what Steiffgal can tell, the first clown appeared in the Steiff catalog in 1894 as a 28 cm doll with a felt body and colorful felt clothing.
Since clowns can't help but bring a smile to your face, what would be a better way to welcome 2010 than a quick look at some Steiff's more recent "clown highlights?"
Kicking off our clown parade is Clownie. This fabulous funnyman was produced from 1956 through 1975 in 14, 19, and 43 cm. He was also available as a 120 cm display piece by special order. The smallest Clownies had hard rubber heads and bodies, while those 19 cm and larger had fabric bodies with movable arms. Clownie sports blue felt patched pants (patches are on the front and back of his trousers), a white calico shirt, white gloved hands, and black felt shoes and hat. Leveraging a good thing, Steiff produced this beloved Clownie design as a 17 cm hand puppet from 1967 through 1976.
Steiff also produced another clown named Clownie from 1954 through 1955. He was made in 14 and 19 cm and was attired in a green felt jacket, black felt pants, a red and white striped shirt, black felt pants, yellow felt shoes, and a red felt cap. This Clownie is very rare and collectible due to his extremely limited time in the catalog. Interestingly, the production methods for both Clownies are based on lessons that Steiff learned from the large scale manufacturing of both the Mecki and Micki hedgehog dolls from the early 1950's.
Let's extend the hand of friendship to this next Steiff clown. This is Hand-Kasper Happy or Hand-Punch Happy. This perky puppet is 17 cm tall and is detailed with red and gold felt clothing, red wool pom-poms, and a white felt neck ruff. He is wearing a gold felt hat with a bell on the end and white felt gloves. He was in the line from 1963 through 1974; those up to 1972 had plastic heads, those after 1972 had softer PVC heads. It is interesting to note that the same head design was used in 1964 as a Blacky Chimney Sweep puppet. Moving forward, Steiff used this very successful basic design template for many puppets by varying the hairline and costumes through the early 1980's.
The next Steiff clown in this lineup is Cappy Schlenkerpuppe or Cappy Floppy Doll. This silly softie stands 28 cm and was produced from 1968 through 1974. He is unjointed and designed for fun and play. This Cappy has a plastic head, yellow felt cap with a bell, while felt glove hands, and red felt feet. His costume is a red and blue artificial silk "harlequin" style suit with a white felt neck ruff.
Notice Cappy's face and head? It is the same as Hand-Punch Happy mentioned above. Steiff also used this very popular face and head for other dolls including a caveman and a sandman; these were produced in the same general time frame as Cappy.
Our parade is slowly drawing to a close, and that's a big deal. A 70 cm deal. This very big boy is Schlori Kasper or Schlori Punch. Schlori was produced from 1978 through 1980. Earlier Schlori dolls were made from synthetic velvet while the later versions were made from trevira velvet. Schlori has a pointy cone nose and soft plush blond hair. He is completely unjointed and very floppy. He wears a red felt hat, red shoes, and an orange and green "harlequin" suit which is finished with a white felt neck ruff. This identical design was also produced in 40 cm as Lari Kasper or Lari-Punch, and Fari Kasper or Fari-Punch. Lari has brown hair and an orange and green suit, while Fari has black hair and an orange and red suit.
And finally why does the word "punch" keep showing up in reference to some Steiff clowns? Probably in reference to the famous "Punch and Judy" puppet shows that were very popular across Europe in days past. The "Punch" character was a "clowny" jester who traditionally wore a playful harlequin style costume, called a "Motley."
Steiffgal ho-ho-ho hopes this optimistic review of Steiff clowns helps to set you up for a very happy and jolly 2010!
Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures, comical or otherwise? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.