Sunday, August 7, 2016

Are You A Fan of Dandy Dan?

Ok, Steiffgal is certain this big reveal will result in wide scale panda-monium! Check out this note from a new friend from Ohio who wanted to introduce the Steiff world to a beloved "mohair" member of her family. Over a series of communications, Kristy shares...

"I know there is a special love for Panda Bears so I would like to introduce to you Dandy Dan! We purchased Dandy Dan around 1983 from an antique dealer in Michigan.

It is our understanding through research and documentation that Dandy Dan was a special order for the department store Stix, Baer and Fuller in St. Louis Missouri in the late 1930's. This is around the time the St. Louis Zoo had a few panda bears as well. So the excitement of Pandas was a big thing then as well.

Dandy Dan was signed by Hans Otto Steiff in the later 1980's. He measures 63 inches tall and weighs about 45 lbs."

Bear with Steiffgal a moment as she catches her breath over this remarkable treasure! Yes, indeed, this is an early Steiff display panda.  His pattern and proportions for the most part match the company's original panda designs, which were based on the beloved "Teddy Baby" pattern. These details include an open, smiling mouth; flat feet designed for standing; downturned paws; and a distinctly youthful appearance.  Although it is impossible to tell with 100% certainty without examining him firsthand, it is Steiffgal's best guess that he is head and arm jointed for flexibility in displaying him, but not jointed in the legs for stability.  He is mounted on a support structure that Kristy's family made for him.

Steiff has been designing and producing lifesized special order editions since the turn of last century, so it is not surprising, but totally thrilling, that Dan would make an appearance after all these years.  Exactly dating him is tricky.  Written provenance suggests that he was produced and delivered to Stix, Baer and Fuller (a department store chain in St. Louis, Missouri that operated from 1892 to 1984) in the 1930's.  Two pandas arrived at the St. Louis zoo in 1939, and this news worthy of international headlines at the time. According to the zoo's website...

“When Happy and Pao Pei pandas arrived at the Zoo in 1939, more than 35,000 people greeted them. They were a rare sight indeed. At the time, only three other pandas were on exhibit in the United States. Director George Vierheller called the pandas the greatest attractions the Zoo had had up to that time.”  (Happy and Pao Pei are pictured here on the left.)

It is completely understandable that a major department store in the area would want to share in the excitement (and marketing potential) of the pandas in their city.  And, apparently the department stores in downtown St. Louis had a tradition of outstanding holiday window displays in the mid-20th century.  As such, it is entirely possible that the panda was produced in the late 1930's or early 1940's and delivered to St. Louis at the time for a holiday or general window display.  

It is very interesting to note that 1939 marked the start of WWII.  At that time, Steiff's production was significantly limited, and high end fabrics such as mohair and felt were severely rationed for toy manufacturing purposes.  So it is a bit unusual that the company would make a large, labor intensive specialty that required a great deal of rationed fabrics at the time - and then have the infrastructure to export it to the United States across battle lines.  Given all that, it is also possible that this panda was made and delivered to St. Louis in the mid to late 1940's, once the war was over and Steiff's toy making business was slowly returning to normal.  However, only Dandy Dan knows for sure!

Steiffgal hopes this interesting panda discussion has also made YOU a fan of Dandy Dan!

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

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