Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fall-ing for Steiff's Wonderful Squirrels

It is certainly starting to feel alot like autumn around Steiffgal's neck of the woods. There are squirrels - and acorns - all over the place. Much to her surprise, Steiffgal encountered this fearless teeny tiny baby squirrel (he really was just a handful!) on her daily walk yesterday, a sure sign that it was time to write a column about these fall loving fuzzballs!

Squirrels seem to be here, there, and everywhere - in nature as well as in Steiff's history. Squirrels have been a part of the Steiff offering since 1897; the first one to appear was begging, unjointed, and made from brown felt. A few years later, this design was updated and made in velvet. The velvet squirrels were also repurposed as pincushions; a model with a basket on her back and a model on a leaf were produced in the 1902 through 1917 time frame. Starting in 1909, Steiff began producing squirrels in mohair; only a few new models appeared through 1942. Steiff also made a 17 cm "Punch Squirrel" or squirrel hand puppet from 1937 through 1938.

 The squirrel pictured here on the left is one of these prewar models. Eichhorn, or Squirrel, is 20 cm and made from gray and white mohair. She is in an upright "begging" position and has a chubby belly and thighs. Her ears and tail - which has a metal wire in it for posing - are made from extra long mohair. She has big black eyes, a hand embroidered nose, mouth, and claws, and a carries a velvet nut. This particular model was produced from 1934 through 1942 in reddish brown and white and gray and white in 20 and 25 cm.

You won't find it nuts to learn that squirrels were one of the very first items manufactured post war when the factory reopened for business in the late 1940s. Eichhorn, described above, was brought back into the catalog from 1949 through 1956. In 1957, Steiff updated their squirrel design and named their new pattern Possy. Possy was begging, unjointed, and made from either brown and white or gray and white mohair. Like her forebearers, Possy also had extra long mohair on her wire lined tail and ear tips. Possy appeared in the line from 1957 through 1976 and was manufactured in 10, 14, and 22 cm. She was also produced as a 17 cm hand puppet from 1957 through 1961.

Steiff created another beloved squirrel pattern in the late 1950's, inspired by a Walt Disney documentary entitled True Life Adventures. This film, released in 1957, "starred" a squirrel named Perri who faced many challenges and adventures. Steiff and Disney have always had a close relationship (and still do...) so it is no surprise that Steiff produced their very own licensed version of Perri. Several 12 cm versions of Perri are featured here on the left. As you can see, Perri is made from brown tipped mohair, has a great shaggy tail, and feet and hands made out of thick felt. One of Perri's most distinctive features is his white felt backed eyes. Perry was made in 12, 17, and 22 cm from 1959 through 1983. The 17 and 22 cm versions came with a beautifully airbrushed velvet pine cone, about 2.5 cm long.

Post war, squirrels have never gone into hibernation in the Steiff line. From the 1960's through today, they have appeared as woolen miniatures, pom-pom animals, soft play animals, Christmas ornaments, and even limited editions. It is clear that these bushy tailed beauties have a special place in the hearts of many Steiff collectors.

According to Sarah Jessica Parker, “You can't be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.”
Steiffgal hopes this history on Steiff squirrels proves that viewpoint merits an entire wardrobe change!

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

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