Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Looking For "Blues Clues" On The Legacy Behind This Unusual Steiff Ted

Make 'em laugh, Make 'em laugh, Don't you know everyone wants to laugh? These famous lyrics were originally sung by Donald O'Connor in the classic 1952 movie hit, Singing in the Rain. But in the case of this reader's inquiry, they also could be performed by her remarkable 1920's era Steiff bear! Take a look at this note from Holly from Hawaii, who asks about her most unusual Ted. Though a series of correspondences, she writes:


I wanted your help to confirm the identity of a bear I bought a little while ago. He has a hole in the ear where the button would have been. He has now very faded, once brown tipped mohair, copper colored (now pinkish in places) stitching on his face and claws, and bright blue eyes. He measures about 13"/32cm and is stuffed with excelsior. I believe him to be a Teddy Clown.

As for his details, I don't feel wire in the ears, though they are a bit thicker at the edges than on my other bears. But they don't fix into positions. He has four claws on each paw; all but one on the left foot is still fully attached. The nose stitching is original but most of it is gone--and the string or two of what's left has faded to pink. I'm sure the eyes are original--they are firmly and deeply attached, and appear never to have been moved--the brown tipped mohair around them has not been disturbed and there are no sewing marks on the head.

In addition to his unusual constitution, he also has a most interesting provenance. I purchased this bear from the daughter of his original owner, who passed away in 1994. Her mother was born in 1923 to a family who emigrated to the US from Germany. They lived in rural Pennsylvania where the father was a homebuilder; the family later moved to Oklahoma. A letter was included with the bear from the family, identifying the cub as having had a clown outfit originally, and that ownership of it was a point of sibling rivalry for decades. This letter, which contains an exchange between the two feuding sisters, reads in part...


This was NOT easy! Alan thinks I’m nuts to part with it – however something you said several visits back made me think you were the original owner – not me. So for you and your grandchildren…Thanks for the loan. I loved it like my own.


On reverse side of the same paper:


Wrong (double underlined) You were and are the owner. However I think he had a collar and white felt hat – not a red ribbon...
Yours forever,


When the older sister died, the younger sister gave the bear back to her sister's daughter, to sort of end the rivalry. The seller - this daughter - expressed to me that she was very glad the bear, after serving as a point of sibling rivalry for so long, was going to have a relaxing retirement in “paradise.” Perhaps she was hoping the same for her mother and aunt… I’m very happy to have the chance to provide a loving place for this VERY well loved teddy to find his peaceful retirement at last!

Thank you for allowing me to share his story and I look forward to any insight you have on his identity and detailing.

Best, Holly"

Steiffgal's not clowning around when she says this little comedian is a keeper! Yes, this is a Teddy Clown, and a rare one at that. Teddy Clown debuted in the Steiff line in 1926 and was featured in the catalog through 1930. He was the identical pattern of the sweet, feminine, childlike Teddy Rose who was introduced in 1925. Teddy Clown was produced in brown tipped mohair in 15, 17, 20, 22, 25, 28, 32, 35, 43, 50, and 80 cm, and pink or gold mohair in 23, 26, 30, 33, and 36 cm. Every Teddy Clown was detailed with a felt hat with two pom-poms and a colorful neck ruff.

One of the things that can't help but catch your eye about Holly's Ted is his fabulous set of blue peepers. The "typical" Steiff Teddy Clown has very large brown and black pupil eyes. Steiffgal searched high and low to find another vintage example of a blue eyed Teddy Clown - or even blue eyed Teddy manufactured prior to 1925 - but could not find one - although interestingly Steiff produced a blue eyed Teddy Clown as part of its "Historic Miniatures" series a few years ago. Have you ever seen a vintage pre-1925 blue eyed Ted?

Steiffgal thinks that these "baby blues" may reveal a secret about Steiff's product development legacy. Holly's Teddy Clown is stuffed with excelsior; Teddy Clowns were stuffed with kapok from 1926 through 1927 and excelsior from 1928 through 1930. So Holly's Ted was manufactured in the 1928 through 1930 time frame. It is also interesting to note that Petsy, the Steiff Ted most famous for his big, beautiful blue eyes and light nose stitching, was introduced in 1928. Holly's late Teddy Clown and Petsy have several similar features, including brown tipped mohair (pictured on the left), coppery colored facial embroidery, and blue eyes. It is possible that Holly's Teddy Clown was a trial for some design elements of Petsy, or a sample of a possible transitional bear design between the Teddy Clown and final Petsy pattern. Having worked at Steiff, Steiffgal knows this is typical for product development at the company - take the best elements of a successful item and apply those details to a "new" item.

Steiffgal hopes this story about a very unusual Steiff Teddy clown has been more fun than a three ring circus for you!

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  1. Hi Steiffgal

    One of my favourites of the Historic Miniatures series issued by Steiff over a number of years, recently, *is* a brown tipped mohair clown with blue eyes, from a model they produced in 1926 (listed on the Historic Miniature tag, attached to him).

    He's one of my all time faves, and I think their including him as part of their H.M. series confirms this original bear's history! :)


  2. I initially thought "Petsy" :)
    Love the researched final though ;)


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