Sunday, October 29, 2017

Feeling Bullish Over This Fantastic and Early Steiff Comic Strip Dog

It's no laughing matter when it comes to Steiff's early cartoon-based creations!  And this one is a canine comic legend.  After many years of searching, Steiffgal finally welcomed this blue-ribbon buddy into her collection.  And besides a few really senior Teddy bears, he is now amongst the oldest Steiff items in her hug. Please say hello to Tige the Bull Terrier!
Things couldn't be merrier when it comes to this Terrier. Tige measures 17 cm tall standing and 25 cm long from head to fanny, not including his long, skinny tail. He is five ways jointed and made from brown short pile plush. This material feels like an itchy old coat or blanket, with its fibers smooth to the surface instead of vertical to it, like mohair. His broad chest and front two paws are made from traditional white mohair. He has three black hand embroidered claws on each of his paws and floppy, brown felt lined ears. Tige's face comes to life with black shoe button eyes, a prominent black hand embroidered nose and mouth, dimensional jowls, and a white stitch to indicate a tooth at the intersection of his mouth lines. He also has black painted lines all over his face most likely to suggests folds and coloration, as well as a few spots and lines on his body and limbs. This Tige was produced in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm from 1906 through 1917 overall. Tige retains his long trailing "F" button and traces of his white ear tag as his IDs. He left the factory with a collar and leash which unfortunately in this case has been lost to time. He was also available with a muzzle in the place of the collar for a few years.

Steiff went a little bull-istic on this wonderful Bull Terrier design.  In addition to the short pile plush version, he was also produced in the same pattern in brown mohair with a white mohair chest and white front feet.  Like his short pile plush cousin, the mohair Tige was made in 17, 22, 28, 35, and 43 cm but appeared in the line from 1907 through 1918.  Both the short pile plush and the mohair versions were also available with tri-colored (white, brown, and black), round, movable glass "eccentric eyes." These eccentric eyes were available only for a handful of years and are rarer than the shoe button eyes, especially on the short pile plush versions.  

Tige of course is modeled on the forever friend of the comic hero Buster Brown.  This American comic strip debuted in 1902 and was penned by Richard F. Outcault.  It starred the earnest prankster Buster Brown, his gal pal Mary Jane, and a host of well meaning society adults. The cartoon proved so popular and was such a commercial success that the characters were soon used to sell shoes, as well as clothing, books, baked goods, and a huge range of other novelties for children. Did you know that girl's "Mary Jane" style shoes with straps are named after the female lead from this beloved comic strip?

For a wonderful overview of early and original Buster Brown comic strips, please click here to view a great document provided by The Smithsonian Libraries. It takes awhile to load, and the cartoons start around page 7, but all of this is totally worth it!

Seeing how popular Bull Terriers were in America - perhaps because of the "Buster Brown effect" - Steiff began producing their own version of this dog breed for national and international distribution.  However, the company did not secure a licence to produce a Buster Brown or Mary Jane felt doll.  Over time, Steiff produced a few special order dolls in the likeness of Buster Brown for customers in London and New York.  It wasn't until 1913 that the company added their versions of Buster Brown and Mary Jane to their standard catalog offering.  Named Willy and Lilly, both were 43 cm and fully 
jointed. They were designed as elegant playthings and as such, each was detailed with elegantly tailored velvet clothing and long, hand-rooted hair. Lilly is pictured here on the left, the photo is from Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH. However, according to company records, in 1913 Steiff only sold 27 Willy dolls and 26 Lilly dolls, so their time in the line was extremely short.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early Tige Bull Terriers has left you feeling bullish.

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

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