"I am hoping you can identify the toy primate in the back of this miniature car, please? The photo was taken in December of 1912, in London. For reference in size, the girl, in the driver's seat, is 4 years old, while her brother, the passenger, is 2 and seems the same size as the primate. I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thank you."
Let's go into overdrive and check out this back seat driver. Based on the quality of the photo, it is impossible to tell with certainty about the details or the manufacturer of this marvelous monkey. But the photo does hold a handful of clues that could link the passenger to Steiff.
Here's a road map to start this investigation. From what Steiffgal can tell, there are two circumstantial details of the photo and one known fact of the period that support the Steiff monkey hypothesis. First, the image was taken in England in 1912, and we know that Steiff was actively supplying the British market with its high end toys at that time. Second, Steiff did produce very large, dark brown monkeys during the first quarter of the 20th century. And, thirdly, the Steiff nephews were very interested in automobiles (and all things mechanical.) The Steiff family was the first in their small town to own an automobile, purchasing it around 1912. Shortly after, the company started to produce all sorts of car related novelties, including radiator caps, headlight covers, and travel mascots. These things were advertised internationally, so the world beyond Giengen was probably starting to associate Steiff items with cars. A picture of Steiff's monkey radiator cap from 1912/13 is pictured here on the left; the photo is from the Cieslik's Button in Ear, the History of the Teddy Bear and His Friends.
So what's on this monkey's driver's license? Now, if, and that's a BIG IF, the monkey was made by Steiff, which model could he be? According to Peter, the little boy sitting in the car, who is about the same size as the monkey, is 2 years old. The average height of a 2 year old boy is about 36 inches, or about 90 cm. The monkey is most likely fully jointed (as it is sitting), has a prominent flat facial mask, and long bent arms. Given all that, it is Steiffgal's best detective work that the monkey may be Steiff's early, but not earliest, Affe, or Monkey. This five ways jointed model was produced in brown mohair from 1904 through 1928, in sizes including 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, and 120 cm. His ears, face, and hands were made from felt. His simple but charming face was detailed with black shoebutton eyes and a stitched nose and mouth. He also had a tail. When he left the factory, he would have had a small Steiff trailing "f" button and a white paper ear tag with the numbers "5390" on it as his identification. This translates to 5=jointed, 3=mohair, and 90=90 cm. A photo of a cousin of Affe 5390 is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Christie's.
Steiffgal hopes you enjoyed this turn of last century joyride!
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