Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's No Trouble At All When It Comes To Steiff's Vintage Max And Moritz Characters

A little mischief is usually a good thing - and that is certainly the case with this most rare Steiff find!  Take a look at this note from Christine, who writes from Canada about a little mobile "mystery man" she picked up on an overseas journey.  She writes in part:
"Hi there,

Here is my precious Steiff elf or gnome as a pull toy.  I bought him in France in 1993 and have treasured him ever since.
He has the sweetest punk face and great orange hair.

I have not been able to find out a single thing about him or find a similar one on the net. I've seen a monkey pull toy with the same wheels and squeaker… but not my gnome.
My sister and I have a vintage home decor shop and I would like to feature him in our Christmas display.

I would love to know if you have ever come across such a fellow or if you know anything about him.

Thanks so very much!

So just who is this terrific trouble maker?  What Christine has here is none other than Steiff's own "Record Moritz."  The doll itself is the company's version of the very popular fictional character Moritz, who was half of the famous Max and Moritz duo.  Moritz is 25 cm and made entirely from felt.  His hair is made from orange mohair.  He wears a green felt suit and brown felt boots, all which are original to him and integral to his body.  The suit coat has a little collar and flowing tails.  Moritz's face has the typical center seam and is detailed with black button eyes and hand-painted features.  He wears a long trailing "f" style Steiff button in his ear.  Moritz rides upon a pull toy style metal carriage supported by four on-center wooden wheels.  When this toy was new, it would make a little noise when it was gently pulled along.  Steiff produced Record Moritz in this size only from 1916 through 1926.  
Although lesser known outside of Europe, Max and Moritz are famous fictional book characters created by the artist and writer Wilhelm Busch around 1865.  These bad boys shared one important mission - to come up with tricks and pranks to play on their friends and neighbors.  The story is written entirely in verse, in rhymed couplets.  Their tale is as popular today as when it was written more than 150 years ago, and remains an important cultural reference and touch point in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  Busch's contributions have been credited with being the inspiration behind several popular 20th century comic strips, including The Katzenjammer Kids.

Max and Moritz were popular Steiff "regulars" at the turn of last century, as well as a source of many ideas for product development.  The boys themselves were produced as fully jointed dolls in 30 and 35 cm from 1910 through 1926.  You can see these dolls pictured here on the left, the photo is from the Cieslik's wonderful reference book Button in Ear The History of The Teddy Bear and His Friends. Max has black hair usually appeared in a blue suit coat and red shirt; sometimes he wore blue pants, sometimes he was in shorts or pants of another color.  Moritz has orange hair and usually appeared in a green closed suit coat; sometimes he was in plaid pants while other times he was in tan pants.  Like Moritz, Max also appeared as a 25 cm "record" character on a wooden wheeled pulled cart from 1916 through 1927. Steiff also went on to produce several other Busch characters as standard line dolls.

It is interesting to note that a quote from Busch's "Max and Moritz" book was the inspiration behind a small series of Steiff display pieces featuring the theme "school." The quote read... "Good children in pursuit of knowledge apply themselves at school or college..."  According to the Cieslik's book in part... "the most famous is the village school, in two designs: a smaller one with nine dolls as pupils and their teacher, and a larger one with 13 pupils and a teacher.  All school furniture and accessories could be ordered from Steiff.  In 1910 Steiff sold 45 complete school displays." A portion of this display can be seen on the left, the photo is from Theriault's; this set sold for $50,000 at auction in 2012.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's Max and Moritz has been no trouble at all for you.

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