Friday, July 5, 2013

Hungry For Information On Steiff's Rare Chow Chow Dogs

Now here's a really unusual Steiff item collectors can really sink their teeth into!  Steiffgal just got back from the 2013 Steiff Sommer Festival, which is held right on the Steiff factory grounds in Giengen, Germany.  Part of the fun of this universal gathering of Steiff enthusiasts is finding all sorts of rare treasures in the event's various show and salesrooms.  And, dog-gonit, Steiffgal did discover a rare pooch she had only read about... a large standing early post-war Chow Chow!  So pull up a chair and feast your eyes on what makes this dog so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Hungry to learn more about this curious Chow Chow?  Well, he is 25 cm, standing, and unjointed.  His entire body is made from very long, golden colored wool plush, while his inset muzzle and both sides of his ears are made from the same plush, just much shorter. (Wool plush feels coarser and rougher than mohair - which generally has a rich silkiness to it.)  Chow's chunky tail curls up and back.  His simple face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth.  Chow's Steiff IDs include a raised script button, yellow ear tag, and a US Zone tag sewn into the seam of his front left leg.  Standing Chow Chow was produced in 12, 17, and 25 cm from 1951 through 1959.  A sitting, white wool plush version was also produced in 10 cm from 1951 through 1957. 

More recently, Chow Chow dogs have appeared relatively infrequently in the Steiff catalog.  A new soft plush model has been introduced roughly every decade since the 1970's.  The company also produced a 65 cm standing Studio Chow Chow made from woven fur in 1978 through 1984. 

Chow Chows have an interesting history on the Steiff menu of product offerings.  And, like many other somewhat unconventional items, Chow Chows were introduced into the Steiff line because of international headline news stories.  For example, remember that it was the American presidency that influenced Steiff's production of Teddy bears, opossums, and Dolly bears!  

Chow Chows made their debut in the Steiff catalog in 1928... the same year that that the German airship "Graf Zeppelin" made its Transatlantic journey.  Accompanying Captain Ernst Lehmann back to Europe was a little Chow Chow dog named Veedol, who was a gift from American friends.  The dog was quite a character on board the airship, and quickly became the mascot of the voyage, despite his puppy antics.  Upon arriving home in Germany, the Chow Chow was given to the airship's helmsman.  The story behind this precocious pooch's adventure quickly spread to both sides of the ocean.  Seeing the potential behind the breed's popularity, Steiff quickly introduced its own Chow Chow, and named him "Brownie."  Both light and dark brown mohair versions of Brownie were subsequently produced sitting, standing, on wheels, as a handbag, and as a pincushion through the early 1930's.  The photo on the left, from Christie's, shows a small sitting version of Chow Chow Brownie.  Steiff also manufactured a very similar Chow Chow design in all white and called her Chow Chow Blanco.  Blanco was produced standing, sitting, and, on wheels during the same time frame. 

According to Steiff company records, the advertising copy for its early Chow Chows read as follows...

"He has been showered with affection from all sides, ever since he was adopted as the Zeppelin mascot on the West East flight of the LZ 127.  His virtue was certainly the reason he was chosen, and is envied by all the world.  As a toy or decorative item, we have portrayed his characteristics as carefully as possible:  large, wise eyes; white, pale, or chocolate brown plush coat, and a good 'barking' voice box."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's rare Chow Chow dogs has whetted your appetite to learn more about this interesting breed!

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1 comment:

  1. Lovely chow dogs, thanks for your share!


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