Saturday, July 29, 2017

This Unusual and Early Steiff Doll is Cut From a Different Cloth

For Steiffgal, the best week of the year is almost upon us. That is because she's off to Orlando, FL to attend the United Federation of Doll Clubs annual national gathering in just a few days. This world-class event celebrates dolls and playthings from every era, is a fantastic opportunity to meet new collector friends and visit with old ones, learn about everything A to Z about dolls, and of course, pick up a few new collection treasures! If you are not a member of UFDC, public day will be held on Friday, August 4th; if you are a member and are attending, Steiffgal hopes to meet you there!

To honor the celebration of all things dolls, Steiffgal would like to introduce you to a very interesting Steiff little child who recently jointed her hug.

This sweet boy is everything snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Please say hello to Rudi (at least that's what his name is now). Rudi is 35 cm, fully jointed, and truly looks like a sweet schoolboy. His face comes to life with striking blue and black glass pupil eyes, a little nose, pouty mouth, and a brown inset mohair wig. His mohair hair has faded to silvery blond over time, but the brown cotton backing has remained quite dark. Collectors see this sometimes with brown mohair bears which fade over time and have a distinctly "silvery" look to them.

Rudi is dressed to the nines. His clothing is all original to him, and consists of a white cotton shirt with a drawstring neckline, black and blue cotton onesie, blue cotton shirt, and a tan linen apron. The clothing is beautifully made, with fine tiny stitches and hooks and snaps. His shoes are made from black felt, and his blue and white stripe socks tie his entire outfit together handsomely. It is Steiffgal's best guess that he started out life as Steiff's "Erich" - who was made in 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm from 1912 to 1927.

Of course, it is never polite to ask someone their age. But the time frame 1912 to 1927 is pretty broad. Rudi is pretty private, but a few of his secrets are very helpful in better determining his "birthday." When Steiffgal purchased Rudi, she adopted him purely for his charming presentation and size. Like all new collection acquisitions, Rudi was given a close inspection. It turns out he has a pretty remarkable body composition which is not obvious from just pictures. For the most part, Steiff's felt center seamed dolls are truly that - made of felt from head to toe. But, occasionally collectors find Steiff dolls made from alternative materials, and those are generally datable to "hard times."

Rudi is cut from a different cloth - literally. His face and well formed fingered hands are made from felt, his shapely limbs are made from fine flesh colored linen, and his simple core body trunk is made from poor quality linen that has a blue or grey tint to it. Steiff detailed this little boy with the best fabrics they had on hand at the time of his production - keeping the most visible parts of his body as aesthetically pleasing as possible. His construction, along with his teeny tiny trailing "F" button, suggest that he was produced at a particularly challenging time during or just after WWI, when the company's access to higher quality fabrics, including felt, was severely sanctioned. As such, Steiffgal suspects he was made around 1915 or 1916. 

So does any of this make any material difference? Yes, fabrics are one way to get an idea of approximate production when it comes to Steiff's early doll production. Steiffgal has a number of other Steiff cloth dolls in her collection from the first quarter of the 20th century; most are all felt, one has a felt face and limbs and a linen body. The all felt ones were made in "good times" (or relatively good times) while those with linen bodies and/or limbs suggest otherwise. Steiffgal also has seen a Steiff cloth Puck Gnome made with a linen face, and suspects he is an extreme "wartime production" example. He is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.  Puck appeared in the Steiff line in 20, 30, and 40 cm from 1914 to 1943 and is one of the company's most charming prewar doll designs (in Steiffgal's humble opinion.)

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's early cloth dolls can be woven into the fabric of your life!

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

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