Thursday, January 23, 2020

Boys Will Be Boys With This Midcentury Steiff Cowboy Doll

Winston Churchill once said, "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." And Steiffgal's certain this rare Steiff cowboy would agree wholeheartedly! Take a look at this marvelous mid-century Steiff doll and see what makes him so interesting from the design and product development perspectives.

Boys will be boys with this precious Steiff "Cowboy." He is 17 cm tall and arm jointed. He has a molded rubber head and a cloth body. His face comes to life with realistic and well contouring painting and details. His handsomely tailored and coordinated shirt, pants, vest, hat, and bandana are made from felt, calico, and leather. These items are not removable from his body. His accessories include a wooden gun housed in a leather holster; these are suspended on his original leather belt. This particular doll design was made in 12 and 17 cm from 1954 through 1957. The smaller size has a rubber body and head, while the larger size has a rubber head and cloth body. The larger one - the one under discussion here today - has the product number "117." This translates to 1=standing and 17=17 cm tall.

Cowboy made his home on the range at a really interesting time in the Steiff product development timeline. Prewar, Steiff''s doll line was primarily felt-centric. From the turn of last century through the mid-1930s, the vast majority of Steiff's standard line dolls had a felt face with either a prominent horizontal or vertical seam. Starting in the mid-1930s, the company produced its dolls with seamless, pressed felt faces.

Postwar, dolls with rubber heads (like Cowboy) took center stage at Steiff. This new way of manufacturing dolls enabled the company to introduce a great number of brand new, contemporary models in just a handful of years. These debut rubber headed models, including a series of dwarfs (Gucki, Lucki, and Lucki), Santa Claus, clowns, and of course the Horzu hedgehogs Mecki and Micki, were far more economical to produce than their labor intensive forefathers, and had a "modern" (for their era) look and feel. It is interesting to note that the dwarfs and Santa share the same facial detailing.

One of the strategies that Steiff adopted to regain its prewar prominence in the toy world postwar was to produce unique offerings exclusively for the US market. Postwar, the company employed two US distributors, Reeves International and the Loucap Company, to insure that their button in ear treasures were represented in as many high quality retail stores as possible. Both Reeves and Loucap created special Steiff exclusives for their retailers. Steiff had also been working with F.A.O. Schwarz in the US since 1906. Geopolitical and trade issues put a huge damper on this relationship from the mid-1930s onward. However, this relationship was reignited in the late 1940s/early 1950s, and a series of delightful Steiff/F.A.O. Schwarz exclusives emerged as a result. A little known one is the “Cowboy Tramp Set” exclusive introduced in 1954; it consisted of the 17 cm Cowboy doll under discussion today and a sweet mohair pony. You can see the catalog photo for this dynamic duo here on the left.

The cataloging for this Cowboy Tramp Set noted, "No rags or cutaways for this young fellow, but a cowboy outfit of matching brown felt chaps and vest, checkered shirt, slouch hat, gay kerchief, felt, and holster. Has molded face with bulbous one and roguish grin - strictly and individualist. Body of his chubby little pony is firm, covered with brown spots. Has a white mane and long white tail. Sports a red leather bridle."

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on the company's 1950s era cowboy doll has been a pleasant ride!

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

Sunday, January 12, 2020

This Antique Steiff Doll Is Just A Kid At Heart!

Oh boy! Literally! That was Steiffgal's reaction when she laid eyes on this charming character. Check out this extremely early Steiff doll and see why he's alot more than snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

It's hard to outfox this turn of last century "Foxy Boy." He is 28 cm and arm and leg jointed. He has a felt, center seamed face and felt hands. His feet are very large in proportion to his body. His hands are early and primitive, like fists, with embroidered digits. His body is primarily made from velvet. His simple, integral outfit consists of a green velvet shirt and black socks, red felt pants and tan laced shoes, and a leather buckled belt. He comes to life with an inset blond wig, black shoe button eyes, and painted facial features. This is one of Steiff's earliest doll designs. He appeared in the line from c. 1904 through 1924; given his details, Steiffgal suspects he's from around 1909 or so. The earliest "Foxy Boy" dolls produced were string jointed and had elephant buttons as part of their branding. Unfortunately, this example's IDs have been lost to time.

Foxy Boy is one of the characters from the turn of last century American cartoon series “Foxy Grandpa.” The strip was introduced in 1900 and penned by Carl E. Schultze. It ran through the 1930's. The strip told of the adventures, and misadventures, of a grandfather and his two grandsons. The strip was wildly popular with readers throughout its run.

In the early 20th century, Steiff took much inspiration for its doll line through popular cartoon strips, as the characters and their presentations translated so well into the Steiff aesthetic of the times. This look included exaggerated facial features, big feet, and very fat or very thin torsos. In addition to the Foxy Grandpa crew, beloved Steiff cartoon character dolls from the early 1900s included Happy, Alphonse, and Gaston from Happy Hooligans and Mama (often produced as a tea cosy) and the Fat Captain from the Katzenjammer Kids. 

Age was just a number when it came to Steiff's interest in the Foxy Grandpa cartoon strip. Steiff produced the "star" of Foxy Grandpa, the actual Grandpa, from 1904 through 1915, and the the two grandchildren as dolls in the overall 1904 through 1924 time frame. Here above you can see the catalog page for Foxy Boy in 1913; you can click on it to make it bigger. According to listing, Foxy Boy weighed .10 kg, his item number was Bu28, and he cost $0.85, which is equivalent to $22.10 in 2020. It is interesting to note that "Foxy Boy" was offered as an “aviator doll” in the French catalog, probably because the French were not familiar with him in the context of the American comic strip.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Foxy Boy has been a blast from the past for you.

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