Monday, November 4, 2019

Let's Make Some Noise About This Unusual 1930s-Era Steiff Cub!

Care to take a stroll down (Steiff) memory lane? Then this seldom-seen and almost antique walking Ted just may fit the bill. Check out this kinetic cub and see what makes him so delightful and noteworthy from the design and product development perspectives. 

Let's make some noise about this bear on the go. He is officially named Growling Bear or "Brummbaer." He measures 9 cm tall and 25 cm from end to end. He is on all fours and in a natural walking position. Ted is unjointed and made from brown mohair with a tan mohair muzzle and paw pads. He has pert, perfectly proportional mohair ears and four black hand embroidered claws on each paw. His face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes placed exactly on his muzzle seam and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. He has a large but nonworking side-squeaker in his tummy area. Brummbaer was made in 17, 25, and 32 cm from 1934-1943 overall. This example is the medium sized version.

Brummbaer was "born" at a period of great uncertainty at Steiff. Starting in the mid-1930s, the effects of national geopolitical realities really began to hit Steiff and most businesses throughout Germany. As such, high quality toy making materials such as mohair and felt were becoming more expensive, and less available, due to military rationing. Local, regional, and international distribution channels began to dry up, eventually all but disappearing by the early 1940s. And the great majority of consumers did not have, or were not spending, money on discretionary playthings. So, as always, Steiff made the most of what they did have, and could control, and produced items like Brummbaer starting in the mid-1930s.

So how exactly does Brummbaer fit the mid-1930s Steiff ethos? In a nutshell, it is a great example of a well designed product strategically engineered to deliver "the max for the minimum" in terms of appearance, presentation, materials, and economy. Brummbaer's "walking" form is unusual and appealing. It is interesting how his bent limbs appear dynamic, and moving, without the item actually being jointed (which is expensive and time consuming) in any way. His interesting, eye-catching form arguably has a higher perceived "value" than a standard, static bear bear on all fours; yet from the business perspective, requires about the same amount of material and time to construct. It is also interesting to note, and probably not a coincidence, that Brummbaer was launched just as many of the company's higher end "tail moves head" animals - including a very similarly styled bear on all fours - were being phased out of the line. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar Brummbaer has given you a leg up on this interesting design!

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