Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Great Big Steiff "Labor of Love"

It hardly seems like work at all to Steiffgal when readers contact her with questions about their family treasures. Check out this note from Caren and Nancy from Worcester, Massachusetts, who are curious about their very own life sized "beast of burden." They write...

"My mother and I are writin
g to you to see if you could help us find out more information about a donkey we have.

We have been told that it is a Steiff but no longer has its tag. It is life size measuring approximately 35 inches tall and 42 inches long.

I'm not what else I can tell you except that its saddle bags are removable.

The donkey was given to our family while we were living in New Jersey around 15 years ago. Any information you can give us would be
greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance for your time, Caren and Nancy"

What you have here is what Steiff calls "Bergesel" or mountain donkey. The donkey is a "Schautier", or life-sized studio display piece. He is standing, made from gray dralon (a synthetic plush material), has pert white felt lined ears and an open felt lined mouth, and has extensive tan and black airbrushing throughout his body to give him texture and a realistic look. His mane and tail tip are detailed with long black dralon fabric and his hooves are made from a leather-like material.

This Steiff mountain donkey is quite rare. He was made only from 1966 through 1967 and came in two sizes: 85 and 115 cm. S
teiff studio items are generally measured by height and Caren and Nancy's piece corresponds to the 85 cm version. The old fashioned "Bastsaecke", or bast sacks (side saddle bags made from a hemp-like material), are original to the donkey and were made to fit the larger or smaller sized versions.

As many typica
l house and farm animals, donkeys are, and have always been, prominent in the Steiff line. They were featured in the debut Steiff catalog of 1892; these earliest models were made from felt, sported a red saddle cloth, and were available with and without wheels. Steiff has produced donkeys as puppets, pull toys, sleeping animals, and even as the logo of the Democratic party here in the USA! Here on the left you can see a relatively modern Steiff donkey, a 60 cm dralon darling named Grissy, from the mid-1970's. Steiffgal thinks that the in the case of Caren and Nancy's donkey, the addition of the bast sacks to the donkey changes its category from a "friendly farm friend" to a mountain-traversing working animal.

Caren and Nancy, Steiffgal hopes your rare and unusual mountain donkey continues his most important labors - bringing you happiness and pleasure - for many more years.

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