Ho ho hope you are in the holiday spirit where ever this posting finds you! As you probably have heard, "Santa Claus is comin' to town..." and hopefully will soon leave one or two Steiff treasures under your holiday tree. In honor of the big guy in red, let's take a look at the history of Steiff's Santa Claus dolls over the past half century or so.
From a historical perspective, the figure of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, has its roots as far back as the 4th century. And Santa as most of the world now knows him has been around for around 150 years. His "modern day" appearance was the vision of Thomas Nast, an illustrator and cartoonist who lived from 1840 to 1902. His rendition of Santa Claus, which appeared in a 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly, effectively created the chubby, happy, bearded, red-suited man we all know and love today. Nast's Santa is pictured here on the left. Based on this timeline, it is interesting to note that it was not until the early 1950's that Steiff introduced a Santa Claus doll into its general line, especially given the company's long and successful history with felt character dolls starting from the early turn of last century!
Like Santa tumbling down the chimney, the arrival of a Steiff Santa doll in 1953 was a very welcome sight indeed. This initial doll was 31 cm, five ways jointed, and had a rubber head, felt body, bright red felt suit and cap, and white fluffy mohair beard. By 1955 this design was also being produced in 13 and 18 cm as well as a special order 150 cm display piece. (From the collector's perspective, it is interesting to note that Santa's head was created from the same molds and patterns used for Steiff's three lucky dwarfs, Gucki, Lucki, and Pucki.) The standard size Steiff Santa dolls appeared in the catalog through 1963. This original beloved Santa Claus doll was reissued in 19 and 28 cm as a US exclusive from 1984 through 1988.
Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Steiff created a Santa hand puppet based on its successful Santa doll. This puppet was 21 cm and had a molded plastic head, detailed felt hands, and a felt body. He was a little larger in scale than other hand puppet of the time, which generally measured 17 cm. He was dressed in a handsome red felt jacket and hat. His outfit was detailed with real white mohair trim down the front of his coat, around his hat, and around his cuffs; the hat was "topped off" with a white woolie pom pom. As expected, Steiff's Santa puppet had rosy cheeks, a reddish nose, and a very long, white full mohair beard and hair. This seasonally spectacular hand puppet was produced from 1954 through 1961.
Speaking of "hands", Steiffgal would like to use this opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to the collectors all over the world who make Steiff an important part of their lives at this universal time of peace and love. A sincere thank you for your readership; it is most appreciated. Happy holidays to you, your family, and your Steiff hugs. Here's to a great 2011 filled with health, happiness, and of course, a few wonderful Steiff finds.
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