Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Steiff "Double Dutch" Family Treasure

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and this week Steiffgal had the pleasure of meeting three new ones! Please take a look at this note from Susanne, from New York, (new friend #1) who wants to know more about a set of vintage Steiff dolls (new friends #2 and #3) that have been in her family just about as long as she can remember. Over a series of communications, she writes:


Here are my two Steiff dolls. Both are felt, about 10.25" tall, and in very good condition. The boy has a Steiff button in one of his little ears. The girl has lovely blue eyes and the boy has handsome brown eyes.  Their heads of hair are in really good condition and they have dear little ears and hands. I believe that my Steiff dolls are wearing their original charming, handmade clothes, of sturdy cotton, with nice little buttons and drawstring ties. The socks feel like knitted black silk or mercerized cotton.  The girl's dress bodice is embroidered. They are SO life-like, truly precious!

Here is their history.  These were given to my sister and I when we were both  children by friends of my parents after their invalid daughter (born in the early 1920's) died! We never really played with them the way we did with regular dolls we had. They are very special and receive a lot of attention and praise when I've placed them on a child's chair I have.

Would they have comes with names…somewhere indicated? I never named them. 

Any information you can provide about them would be most appreciated.


Susanne, you are such a doll for writing!  Yes, these family treasures are simply spectacular!  Steiff produced these "childlike" felt dolls from around 1910 through the late 1920's.  Both boys and girls were produced in sizes ranging from 22 to 75 cm.  The dolls all had the same basic body - you can see the front and back here on this picture, as well as the jointing and proportions.  They were gorgeously dressed and differentiated by their clothing and footwear styles, many regionally or nationally specific - like Susanne's Dutch dolls.  All had charming, well constructed matching clothing made from high end materials, including felt, velvet, calicos, wool, and embroidered muslin.  Many had hats, which exactly matched the fabric or theme of their outfits.  They were also detailed with stockings and hand-made felt or leather shoes.  

Susanne's dolls actually do have names and are documented in the Steiff archives.  The picture here on the left is how they appeared when they left the factory in Giengen almost 100 years ago, and is from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.  The girl's name is Alida.  She was made from 1909 through 1919 in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm.  She is described as "felt, jointed, Dutchwoman, original costume, Sunday best." The boy is Harry.  He was made from 1908 through 1925 in 28, 35, 43, 50, and 60 cm.  He is described as "felt, jointed, Dutch fisherman, original costume."  By "original costume" Steiff means that the dolls are dressed in apparel that is traditional to a country - in this case, the Netherlands.  And by "Sunday best", that would imply "fancier" clothing for going to Church on Sunday, which makes sense in the case of Alida given her elaborately embroidered dress bodice and red cuffs (which Harry has apparently borrowed from his sister in Susanne's pair!).  

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to Alida and Harry has been more fun for you than a game of Double Dutch!

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

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