Sunday, January 23, 2022

It's Time To Throw The Book At This Amazing Antique Steiff Character Doll!

Let's take it to the Max with this week's blog story! Here we have a darling - but devilish - literary character who is well known throughout Germany. Take a look at this early Steiff doll and see it's always "double trouble" when he makes an appearance.

Here we have Steiff's Max doll. 
He is 30 cm tall, fully jointed, and made primarily from felt. He wears grey felt shoes, cream felt pants, a brown felt shirt, and a blue felt blazer detailed with blue felt buttons. His legs are made from tan linen. His oversized hands and head are made from flesh colored felt. His face comes to life with black bead eyes, prominent horizontal and vertical seaming, painted eyebrows and lips, and pert, oversized ears. You can't help but notice his shock of long, jet black hair which is made from mohair. You can see two slits in his left ear where his Steiff button would have been, but sadly this hardware has been lost to time. Max appeared in the Steiff line in 30 and 35 cm from 1910-1926.

Steiff has a century plus long tradition of interpreting famous fictional and literary characters... and this doll is a perfect example of that.
Max - and his brother Moritz - are the "stars" of a legacy German book called Max and Moritz (A Story of 7 Boyish Pranks). It was written by author Wilhelm Busch (German, 1832-1908). This work was first published in 1865. This darkly comedic tale is written in verse and consists of seven “chapters.” Max and Moritz are the ultimate troublemakers and they cast their shenanigans throughout their town. The book, still a favorite nearly 160 years onward, has become an integral part of the German culture and psyche. Author Rudolph Dirks credits Max and Moritz as the inspiration behind his early and important comic strip The Katzenjammer Kids which debuted in 1897. And even today, some German parents are known to have named their twin sons after this troublemaking team.

Given his appeal, Max (and his brother) were often featured in Steiff's early 20th century advertising.
Here on the left, you can see one of Steiff's print marketing images from around 1912/13. You can click on the image to make it bigger. It features the silly siblings creating havoc at a military post. This is not unexpected, given their reputation for troublemaking! Max has made his way into the soldier's booth - and appears to be picking his nose without a care. And his brother Moritz has somehow gotten his hands on the soldier's firearm and is running away with it. Steiff's marketing images from this period - just like this one - are usually comical, multilayered, ironic, and extremely well executed. The picture is from Dottie Ayers and Donna Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

It should be no surprise that Steiff really "Max'ed" out on its Max doll production during both the pre- and postwar periods.
Prewar, Max and Moritz were produced as 25 cm “record” or pull toy dolls on wooden wheels from 1916-1926 overall. Fast forward, Steiff produced Max and Moritz as tiny 10 cm rubber dolls from 1962-1967. Their final appearance in Steiff's catalog, as far as Steiffgal can tell, was as a pair of 30 cm tall trevira velvet puppets pictured here on the left. These charming characters appeared in the line from 1979-1982. As you can see, their detailing, materials, and construction were updated to reflect the aesthetic of the era. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's Max storybook doll has been a good read for you.

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Dressed For Success: Steiff's Early And Fantastic Golliwog Dolls

Good golly! Everyone needs a best friend, and that's just what the Golliwogs - storybook characters invented by author Florence Kate Upton in the late 19th century - were invented for. Steiff has a long tradition of bringing favorite fictional friends to life. One of the first examples of this was in 1904 when Steiff worked with author Beatrix Potter to produce her beloved Peter Rabbit as a soft toy for children. Take a look at this incredibly rare and early Steiff Golliwog based on Upton's tales and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

You can't help but smile when it comes to this simply charming early felt Golliwog doll.
 He is 43 cm, standing, and fully jointed. His head and oversized hands are made from black felt. His legs, under his pants, are made from a linen type of material. His clothes are primarily integral to his body. He wears black oilcloth shoes with black felt soles, red felt pants, a white felt shirt detailed with black buttons, and a blue felt top coat - which also is decorated with a few buttons on the back and front. His red neck ribbon is all original to him. His jolly face comes to life with black button eyes backed in red and white felt circles, a sewn-on, dimentional red and white felt smile, a prominent horizontal seam, and a head full of black curly mohair. He retains his tiny long trailing f button as his Steiff ID. This classic design was produced in 28, 35, 43, 50, 60, 80, and 100 cm from 1909-1919 overall.

This period design was so popular at the time it was produced in two little known novelty forms.
The first, a roly poly Golliwog, appeared in the line in 29 cm from 1909-1912. This very rotund fellow had the typical Golly head and red, white, and blue outfit, as well as arms and oversized hands, but no legs. He wobbled about but always came to rest upright. And the second was a “snap apart” Golly from around 1909. This doll looked just like the standard line, full bodied Golly but was jointed with metal snaps (not regular cardboard disks and pins) and designed to be taken apart and reassembled as a toy for children. Although there is reference to this unusual toy in reference books and the Steiff archives, it was probably not put into full line production.

It's also fun to take a look at the design elements of Steiff's early 20th century Golliwogs.
Besides their really distinctive facial presentation, they do indeed have many of the same details as the company's felt farmers, who were also produced around the same period.

For example, Steiff's Dachau Farmer has nearly the same proportions, horizontal face construction, body shape, oversized hands, and simple footwear pattern as this Golliwog. This farmer doll is pictured here on the left. Even the clothing looks like they may have been borrowed from the same closet! Such streamlining adds production efficiencies to the manufacturing process, as well as gives the product line a somewhat standard "look and feel" which is important for branding, quality control, and marketing purposes. 

And speaking of marketing... you can see a super sweet print ad from around 1912 or so featuring Steiff's goofy Golliwogs here on the left. 
You can click on the image to make it bigger. The photo is from Dottie Ayers and Donna Harrison's Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on early Steiff Golliwog dolls has gotten you into a playful mood!

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

Monday, January 3, 2022

Taking A Joyride With This Midcentury Steiff Car Display

So let's kick off 2022 in fifth gear! It's always so much fun to learn about unusual Steiff display pieces, and this one will make you want to hit the road for sure. What secrets do its design elements hold? Check out this note and photos from Susie in Ohio. She shares, 

"This is a wonderful Steiff display piece I own that I call "Distracted Driving!" It has a Lulac, a Cockie, and a Tulla Goose. When you push the car, the goose wings flap up and down and the cotton smoke stack in the front rotates. It is in pretty great condition although some of it is made from rubber and has become slightly brittle. This does not distract from its irresistible charm. I honestly think this display should be in a museum somewhere!"

A joy ride indeed!
Steiff's tradition of creating still and animated displays goes back to the dawn of the 20th century. These first, early vignettes reflected things like life in a small town, farming, schoolrooms, or sports, among others. In some cases, these were photographed for advertising purposes, while in others, the scenes were actually sold as a package to stores as displays. It wouldn't be long before Steiff's creative team brought these scenes to the next level with movement; in about 1910 the company launched the large-scale, mechanized window display pieces that it would continue to produce throughout the 20th century. Albert Schlopsnies, a design and creative freelancer for the company, is responsible for many of Steiff's most breathtaking museum, retail, exhibit, and special event displays through the mid-1920s. 

Now let's take a closer look at Susie's display.
Its passengers include two standard line items and one modified standard line item. Given its form, materials, and detailing, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this display was made sometime in the c. 1955-1965 timeframe. Steiff used the "old jalopy" car concept in its automaton production frequently throughout the third quarter of the 20th century. Here on the left you can see a similarly themed display from the late 1970s or so; the photo is from LiveAuctioneers/Morphy Auctions. 

Taking the wheel of this display is Steiff's legacy Lulac rabbit.
This long legged lovely was produced in 43 cm from 1952-74 and 60 cm from 1964-66. Given the scale of display, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this is the smaller version. He is five ways jointed, features comically long arms, legs, and torso, and is made from made from caramel and light orange mohair. His paws are made from longer, shaggy mohair. His face comes to life with an open, peach felt mouth, a pink embroidered nose edged in black, and blue and black googly style eyes. It is possible that his name derives from a combination of the German words associated with laughter, smiling, and a "long and lanky" presentation. You can see Lulac here on the left, the photo is from Liveauctioneers/Ladenburger Spielzeugauktion GmbH.

Lulac's wingman is a standing Bazi dog.
He is made from short tan colored mohair that is accentuated with darker airbrushed highlights on his back, chest, and head. Bazi's face is detailed with black and brown pupil eyes and a hand embroidered nose and mouth. Bazi left the factory in Giengen wearing a blue leather collar with a little brass bell. The standing mohair version of Bazi was produced in 10 and 14 cm from 1950 through 1975. Given the presentation of the display, it is Steiffgal's best guess that this is the 10 cm version. You can see standing Bazi here on the left, the photo is from Steiffgal's collection. 

At the tail end of all of this - and yes, pun intended - looks to be a little Tulla goose, sort of. 
Regular line Tullas are standing, unjointed, and made entirely from white mohair with grey airbrushed highlights, especially on their heads and necks. They feature playful, outstretched mohair wings, oversized orange felt feet, and a thin, happy orange felt beak which really looks like a smile! Their back tail feathers are made from a solid piece of single thick white felt, and their faces are detailed with tiny black button eyes. Tulla goose was made from 1952 through 1974 in 12, 17, and 28 cm. You can see Steiff's 12 cm standard line Tulla goose here on the left, the photo is from Steiffgal's collection.

If you look closely at the goose on this display, you will notice that she has a few small design details that are different than her standard line cousins.
First, her tail is made from orange felt, not white felt. Second, her wings are made from white felt, not white mohair. And finally, her orange beak is much larger and more prominent than the standard line version's beak. It is entirely possible that these simple modifications were made so the goose would have the physical structure, critical mass, and flexibility to hold her position on the display, as well as flap her wings when activated.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Susie's animated Steiff automobile display has been the real-wheel-deal for you!

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