Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Perfect Steiff Hot Dog For This Fourth Of July Weekend!

Well, the Fourth of July weekend is upon us, and summer - at least here in these parts - is in full swing. Many friends and families celebrate this fine holiday with parties and cookouts featuring hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. So Steiffgal thought the time was perfect to introduce you to her latest warm weather find - also a hot dog - but just not the type you enjoy with mustard. (But feel free to relish her!) Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Gretl!  Gretl is named after a friend's real life Dachshund who also toddles along and has a thing for the UPS delivery man.

Steiffgal is literally jumping for joy over this "Hopping Dachshund." She is 22 cm tall and 30 cm wide, not including her long, skinny tail. She is standing on all fours, unjointed, and made from short brown mohair. She has three black claws on each of her feet. Her face, which has a rather pensive look to it given her forehead-muzzle seam construction, comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a hand embroidered black nose and mouth. She mounted on two metal dowels and rides upon four oversized, natural colored wooden wheels. Sometimes these types of wheels have some Steiff identification like the company's name carved or stamped on them, but these are plain. Gretl's pull string is attached directly to her neck and is original to her. She left the factory in Giengen with a leather collar, but that has been lost to time. Gretl retains her tiny long trailing "f" button and traces of her white ear tag as her Steiff IDs. 

Gretl was officially made in this size in mohair from 1912 through 1917, and then again from 1923 through 1926. Given her small button and white ear tag fragments, she was produced at the earlier part of this time frame. Her pattern in mohair was brought back into the line in 1927 through 1929, this time in three sizes: 17, 20, and 22 cm. These later versions had larger trailing "f" buttons and white or red ear tags as their Steiff IDs.

It is always interesting to look at manufacturing dates when it comes to Steiff's legacy patterns and characters. Gretl's pattern in mohair seemed to take a hiatus for a few years between 1918 and the early 1920's. And why is this? As a result of World War I, which ended in November, 1918, the company was suffering from the results of the war. Manufacturing, material supplies, inventories, and infrastructure were in disarray as the country was starting to figure out how to manage the postwar rebuilding process. Felt, mohair, and other high end materials were in extremely limited supplies, and for several prior years had been allocated almost exclusively towards military purposes.  

But Steiff, being an amazingly creative and resilient company, found a way to work around those supply chain issues and keep itself busy as well as in business. Given the abundance of wood in the area, the company started producing things like toys, building sets and furniture for children. Steiff also found a way to produce substitute materials from local alternative natural products including nettles and wood. These substitute material selections appeared in the line from 1919 through 1921, and included models of the company's most popular standard line bears, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other favorites. And, given the popularity of the company's "Hopping Dachshund," she too was produced in 1918 through 1920 in substitute, improvised fabrics. You can see Gretl's cousin from this period in the illustration on the left; she is hiding out on the bottom shelf on the far right. This illustration is from Steiff's c. 1919 catalog; the picture is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear:  The History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends, 1989.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Hopping Gretl and her interesting product development history has been the wheel-deal for you.

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

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