It's beginning to feel alot like Christmas here in New England, even though the closest holiday on the calendar is Halloween on October 31st! With 6 inches of early snow predicted for around these parts over the next 24 hours, looks like the trick-or-treaters may choose to dress up as Frosty the Snowman, a polar bear, or even a penguin to collect their goodies this year!
Despite the disconnect in calendar and season, it is still the right time of the year to celebrate one of Steiff's oldest, and most beloved NON-bear characters. Steiffgal here is referring to the company's wonderful black Tom Cat design.
If a pattern could have nine lives - or more - than this "ferocious feline" would more than qualify. The original Tom Cat was produced in both black and white velvet. Both versions were very skinny, standing on all fours, unjointed, and had arched backs, open mouths. They all left the factory in Giengen, Germany wearing a silk ribbon and bell. Black Tom cats were produced in 10, 14, and 17 cm from 1904 through 1918. White Tom cats were produced in 14 and 17 cm for three years only - from 1906 through 1908 - and are exceptionally rare. Steiffgal has never actually seen an early white velvet Tom Cat!
It is interesting to note that this early black velvet Tom Cat was featured standing on top of a red felt fez as a "Tom Cat coffee cozy." This incredibly rare item was produced in 28 and 35 cm from 1908 through 1915.
The next version of this model tip-toed in on little cat's feet in 1923. Like his older brother, this black Tom Cat also was standing and unjointed. He was produced in 8, 10, 14, 17, 22, and 28 cm through 1943; the 8 and 10 cm sizes were made from black velvet while the 14 cm and larger versions were made from mohair. All sizes had prominent green and black glass eyes. Unlike the original super skinny Tom Cat, design, these were all a little more robust in appearance, had closed mouths, and bushy mohair tails regardless of sizes.
Blink - literally - and you might have missed this teeny-tiny pre-war black Steiff woolen miniature Tom Cat. Woolies debuted in the 1931 Steiff catalog in the form of six simple birds. This introduction proved extremely successful, and almost immediately Steiff introduced rabbits, cats, mice, mice, monkeys, ducks and other popular species as woolen miniatures. One of these rarities was an 8 cm black Tom Cat. He was standing and made from Nomotta wool. And like his most recent relatives, also had a large, bushy tail and piercing green and black glass eyes.
Tom Terrific (and I don't mean Tom Brady of the Patriots, here....) quickly hit the markets again once the factory reopened for business post WWII. These Tom Cats were produced from 1950 through 1976 in 8, 10, 14, 17, and 22 cm. These post war models were all but identical to those produced prewar. The 8 and 10 cm "kittens" were made from black velvet while the larger "cats" were made from black mohair. All sizes were standing with arched backs and tails reaching to the sky. Their faces were detailed with pink or red stitched noses, clear mono filament whiskers, and intense green and black pupil eyes.
Gotta hand it to Steiff to recognize a good thing when they saw it. Based on the almost fifty year track record of success of their black Tom Cat design, Steiff introduced "Hand Tom Cat" or black cat puppet in 1952. This puppet was 17 cm tall. His entire body, head, and arms were made from jet black mohair. The puppet is detailed with green and black slit pupil eyes and red hand stitched nose mouth and claws on his paws. Steiffgal has seen these with either a red or salmon colored silk neck ribbons. Hand Tom Cat appeared in the line through 1978. Steiff also produced a 40 cm dangling style Tom Cat named Kalac in 1964 and 1966. This strange, rare, and wonderful oddity is the result of Steiff “marrying” its classic Tom Cat pattern with their trendy and popular (at the time) lulac “leggy” design.From a collector and historian's perspective, it is most interesting to note that the original black Tom Cat design was featured in a photograph from the 1903 - 1904 Steiff catalog. But what's so special about that? It's the same picture that debuted PB55... the world's first jointed Teddy bear. Timing is everything, eh? A snapshot of this catalog page is shown here on the left; you can spot Tom Cat a little to the right of center standing on top of a donkey on wheels. According to the hand written notes on the photo, these original black Tom Cats were 14.40 Deutchmark per twelve. That is VERY ROUGHLY roughly $0.30 each in 1903, the equivalent of about $7.00 in today's US dollars. This picture is from the Cieslik's fantastic Button in Ear The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends reference, published in 1989.
Steiffgal wishes all her wonderful readers a frightfully fantastic Halloween and hopes this column on black cats brings nothing but good luck!
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