Saturday, May 27, 2017

This Orange Tipped Bully The Bulldog Hand Puppet Is On Fire!

You gotta hand it to Steiff - their early character puppets are simply marvelous! Often based on their most popular patterns of the time, favorite pre-war models include Molly the Puppy, Teddy baby, and Treff the Bloodhound. Recently, Steiffgal got to meet another top dog from this rare category - a Bully the Bulldog puppet! Check out this happy handful and see what makes this puppet so special from the design and collector's perspectives.

This Bully is on fire - really! His body and arms are made from white mohair, his ears are made from vibrant flame-orange tipped mohair, and his muzzle is made from tan velvet. Bully stands 17 cm tall. His head and the tips of his arms are stuffed with excelsior. He has three black hand embroidered claws on each of his padless paws. Bully's pouty face comes to life with oversized black and brown glass pupil eyes, a black hand embroidered nose, freckles, and brown airbrushed highlights. His ears are lined in wire and are posable; this is a great feature also seen on other playful patterns of his era including Petsy the Baby Bear.  Bully puppet wears his original decorative horsehair collar and bell and retains his long trailing "f" button and traces of his white ear tag as his Steiff IDs. This hand puppet was made in 17 or 18 cm in orange and white or brown and white from 1927 to 1935 overall; he was also produced with a hand-activated voice for a few years as well. 

So just how old is this example, in either dog or people years? Given this Bully had/has a white ear tag, which technically appeared through 1926, it is quite possible that he was manufactured at the beginning of his production timeline, in early 1927.  As such, he was most likely branded with a leftover white ear tag on hand instead of the company's newer red version.  These red ear tags were introduced in 1927.  How can you resist this face??

This pattern has a most colorful history. Steiff introduced Bully to the world in 1927 and he was an instant sensation with both children (as a plaything) and adults (as a collectible and an accessory). He was modeled on the French Bulldog—the “it” companion of those in the know all across Europe at the time. These top dogs were produced in a number of color combinations, including black and white, orange and white, and brown and white.  A rare blue-and-white version was also manufactured, and Steiffgal has even seen a photo of a red and white one! This was probably a prototype and never put into production. Full bodied versions are usually seen in sitting or standing positions, in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 centimeters. This original Bully pattern was produced overall through 1939.  

Like many of Steiff's most beloved patterns, Bully the Bulldog was also produced in a number of theme and variation items and novelties.  These included a pincushion, music box, dog-doll, nightdress bag, wheeled and riding versions, and this puppet example, among other product line extensions. Most Bullies came detailed with a horsehair ruff or a button-studded leather collar.  It is extra-special to find a Bully with his horsehair collar intact, as these are quite ephemeral and tend to break or fall off over time. Today, this precious prewar pooch pattern is one of the most universally desirable and sought-after pre-war Steiff designs among collectors. He has been replicated numerous times over the past few decades and even these newer models are coveted by collectors.  The photo on the left is from a 1929 catalog and pictures a number of Steiff's beloved character puppets including an orange and white Bully; this illustration is from Carsten Esser's fabulous new book, Steiff Kataloge 1920-1929. Just click on the image to make it larger.  

Steiffgal hopes that you'll give a thumbs up to this interesting hand puppet discussion!

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

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