Saturday, May 25, 2019

Overall, A Most Delightful And Unusual Steiff Rabbit Doll!

Hop to it and check out this delightful Steiff rabbit doll with a somewhat mysterious origin. Steiffgal saw this charming fun-bun for sale on an online auction, and was lucky enough to win her (or him, but more about that later.) Its animal doll configuration was typical to 1930s construction, but there was something a little different about this example. But what was it?

This standing sweetie measures 28 cm tall (not including the ears) and is head jointed. Rabbit's body is made from a soft fabric that has a velvet-y touch to it. It has flat, cardboard lined feet designed for standing. The tips of its hands and feet, and its head and ears, are made from a woolen type of fabric - it is short, with a continuous, semi-rough feel to it. Rabbit's long "sideburns" (or side-buns?) are made from long mohair. Bunny's face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a simple red hand embroidered nose and mouth, and traces of airbrushing. The ears are lined in wire and are poseable. Rabbit doll retains its long trailing "f" button and traces of a red ear tag as its IDs. 

So just who is this rare hare? This exact rabbit doll pattern does not appear in the Steiff Sortiment books. Steiff did make a series of wonderful rabbit dolls - toys with rabbit heads and human-like bodies like this one - starting in the 1930s. But none had the dramatic facial "hair" of the one under discussion here. This sideburned head pattern was produced on at least four other rabbit bodies. These included sitting and begging tail-turns head models, and two begging models - an unjointed version, and one wearing a little jacket. All appeared in the line from 1931 through 1940 overall. Given all of this, it is Steiffgal's best guess that the rabbit doll was indeed made in early to mid 1930s.

It is easy to go down a rabbit hole when it comes to learning more about Steiff rarities, and that's exactly what happened here. After looking through an original 1938 Steiff brochure, Steiffgal spotted a rabbit doll with mohair sideburns. Much to Steiffgal's surprise - as she thought the rabbit may be a girl - the bunny doll is actually called "Haspapa!" This literally translates to "Rabbit Father." He is shown next to another rabbit doll called "Hasmama," or "Rabbit Mother." Papa and Mama were made in 22 and 28 cm. The brochure does not mention their materials. However, it is interesting to note that they are posed with a woolen mohair duck. Woolen mohair was often used in the place of mohair plush on Steiff toys in the c. 1930-1950 time frame. It is considered an alternative, war-era fabric. So it is plausible that Haspapa was originally intended to be made out of woolen mohair and not traditional mohair plush. The picture from the brochure is shown here on the left, you can click on it to make it larger.

Finally, its a clothes call with Haspapa's darling outfit. According to the brochure picture, Haspapa left the factory wearing green overall style pants and what appears to be a checkered shirt. Fast forward eight decades, Haspapa did arrive wearing his wonderful red overalls; they are original to Steiff but not to him. The red fabric features lots of Steiff's most beloved toys and designs on a teeny-tiny scale, and looks great with his red nose and mouth . But given his age, and the New England weather, Steiffgal though he needed a few more layers. So Steiffgal's sister went right to work, making him comfortable cotton underwear, knitting him a sweater, and even "cobbling" him a pair of tie shoes. Isn't he a handsome devil? A big Steiff shout out to Steiffsis for the great handy work.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Haspapa has been a hare raising experience for you.

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Hans-Down, This Is One Amazing Antique Steiff Doll

Well hello, handsome! Country life certainly agrees with you. Today's special guest is a delightful example of Steiff's extraordinary, first quarter of the 20th century cloth doll production. Please say hello to Hans, the Swabian farmer.

Hans-down, this is one delightful doll. Hans has human proportions and stands 35 cm tall.  He is made from felt and is fully jointed. His hands have stitched fingers. His face comes to life with a brown mohair wig which has faded to silver over time, black button eyes, a prominent vertical facial seam, light blushing to his cheeks, and two horizontal seams by his eyes. His lips and nostrils are delicately defined by pink paint. Hans wears a traditional southern German (Swabian) farmers outfit, including a red buttoned felt vest detailed with five tiny Steiff buttons, black felt pants, a white cotton collared shirt, black tie shoes and white socks, and a black felt hat. He retains his tiny long trailing "f" button-in-ear as his Steiff ID. Hans was made in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, and 75 cm from 1908-1927. 

Hans appeared in Steiff's line for nearly two decades - and for good reasons! His charming presentation, regional outfit typical to southern Germany (where the Steiff factory is located), and ties to a popular Brothers Grimm fairy tale probably explain why - but more about that in just a bit! So given his long production period, how can you tell roughly when he might have been made?  Here are a few general guidelines to help approximately date Steiff's center-seamed faced cloth dolls from the early 1900s-late 1920s.

1.  Body: The earliest ones had cartoon-like or exaggerated features; starting around 1908 the company started producing children, adults, and soldiers with human proportions.

2.  Clothing: The earliest ones had clothing mostly or entirely integral to their bodies; starting around 1908 children and adult dolls with removable clothing were introduced on a large scale. Soldiers usually had most or all of their uniforms integral to their bodies.

3.  Eyes: The earliest ones had black shoe button eyes; starting around 1910 or so glass pupil eyes became the norm.

4.  Hands: The earliest ones had "fist" style hands; starting around 1910 or so fingered hands became the norm.

5.  Materials: The earliest dolls were produced in felt and/or velvet. Dolls with felt heads and linen bodies and/or limbs were produced during the WWI era (around 1914-1919). All felt dolls appeared in the line from around 1905-1914 and then again from around 1920 through the late 1920s.

If you overlay these guidelines on the Hans under review today, this model was most likely produced in the c. 1909-1911 time frame, give or take a bit.

Colleagues who study both Steiff and the history of literature suggest that Hans just might be the Hans of the Brothers Grimm "Clever Hans" story. The title of the story is meant to be ironic, as Hans is pretty much the opposite of clever. In a nutshell, Hans is "a day late and a dollar short" on a number of common sense tasks. These mis-steps ultimately result in the loss of his fiance. You can read, or listen to that short tale here. In 1913, Steiff created a print ad titled "Clever Hans" featuring this farmer doll doing something both foolish and endearing at the same time. This marketing piece is featured above; you can click on it to make it larger. The picture is from D. Ayers & D. Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears & Playthings.

Steiffgal hopes you've found this Hans the Farmer quite the charmer!

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

Monday, May 6, 2019

Care To Feather Your Nest With This Steiff Woolen Miniature Parrot?

Bird's the word with this next great Steiff find! Literally! This perky little parrot is really the best of all words, and was produced during the heyday period for Steiff woolen miniature pets. Let's take a bird's eye view of what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

Look who arrived on a wing and a prayer! This woolen miniature Steiff parrot measures 8 cm long and 12 cm long including his tail feathers. He is sitting, head jointed, and made from red, blue, green, yellow, and grey Nomotta wool threads. His tail is made from delicately cut, single-thick red, blue, and orange felt fabric. His tiny, irresistible face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a double thick grey felt beak. He truly has the most appealing presentation and personality!

Now let's take a seat and check out his great accessories. Parrot is perched on a 23 cm tall wooden and metal stand. The base and his perch are wood and the rest is formed and shaped rods. The base is 8 cm in diameter. Everything is painted the same shade of light green. The little silver chain connecting him to the perch is all original. A few stitches connect the parrot to his perch, which can swing gently from side to side. Parrot's button and tag have been lost to time. They could have been located his felt tail feathers, around a metal rod, or embedded in his circular base - only he knows for sure, and he's not talking! Parrot on a stand was produced in this size only from 1936-1941. The company also made the almost identical parrot standing on metal feet from 1936-1940; his tag and button would have been located like a little bracelet around one of his legs. 

Steiff began creating their line of woolen miniatures in the early 1930s. In response to geo-political, economic, and social pressures of the time, Steiff was looking to produce smaller items at accessible price points that a broad German audience would find desirable. The woolen miniature concept fit that strategy perfectly, as they were ideal as collectibles for adults as well as playthings for children. Birds and rabbits translated especially well to this new product format, given their natural shapes, body positions, and textures. Because they proved so popular, Steiff would go on to introduce animals from practically every category as woolen miniatures through the late 1930s.

This parrot novelty perfectly marries the company's strengths in woolen miniature production, authentic design, decorative use of felt, and it's lesser known core competencies of woodworking and turning. Other Steiff factory original woolen miniatures in "vignettes" with accessories such as this one included a bird tree decorated with flowers and birds, a bird's nest with babies and a proud mama, and a series of congratulators - charming dressed miniature animals mounted on round wooden bases that could be "personalized" with a greeting or inscription for the lucky recipient.

Steiffgal hopes you've enjoyed hanging out with this great antique Steiff parrot today!

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