Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Ivy League Style Steiff Mystery

Eye, eye, eye... who is this?  That's the question that immediately popped into Steiffgal's head when she saw this little bug-eyed Steiff fellow at a delightful vintage doll and toy store in Connecticut recently.  Any ideas?  Well, here's a clue to help you out with this mystery.  He's one top dog, representing a top tier Ivy League university!  

Let's take a closer look at his report card.  This brilliant Bulldog is standing on all fours, unjointed, and 14 cm tall. He is made from tan mohair that has been detailed with black, brown, and tan airbrushing and has googly, round eyes.  These great peepers are very similar in style to those of Steiff's Basset Hounds, which were in the line from 1961 through 1963. Bulldog's jowls are elaborately constructed and lined in pink velvet.  Interestingly, his nose is made from black glass and he purposefully has one ear down and one ear up, giving him a most inquisitive look.  Perhaps he is listening to a lecture on ancient history or physics? 

Go to the head of the class if you recognized this Bulldog as the mascot of Yale University.   According to the Steiff Sortiment book, this bulldog pattern appeared with a red and white felt blanket for Brown University or a blue and white blanket for Yale University.  It is interesting to note that Brown University never had a Bulldog as a mascot; their logo has been a bear since the turn of last century.  So the Brown Bulldog reference may be incorrect.  In any case, he is a highly sought after United States exclusive and was produced in 1957 only.  Since this particular model doesn't have his blanket, it is impossible to tell if he was made for Yale or the mystery "B" school.  However, Steiffgal purchased just a few miles from New Haven, home of Yale, so there is a good chance he started out his life as a Yalie in blue and white!

Smarty-pants Bulldog is just one in a series of interesting university and institutional mascots Steiff produced in the 1950's and early 1960's.  For colleges, Steiff made a Columbia University lion and lioness pair, a Duke University devil, a much larger sized Yale University bulldog (pictured above; he also has a black glass nose), and three versions of the Princeton University tiger.  In addition to higher ed mascots, Steiff also made several versions of the US Army donkey and US Navy goat.  Most mascots bore felt blankets bearing the first initial of the school or military branch. 

Being a Cornell graduate, Steiffgal is disappointed that Steiff never made a mascot for her school, whose logo is "The Big Red Bear."

Steiffgal hopes this class on Steiff's 1950's era mascots has been a true educational adventure for you.

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

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