Sunday, November 26, 2023

Can Steiff's Jocko Chimps of Yesteryear Speak French?

Given how adorable and appealing Steiff's dolls, bears, and animals are, it is no surprise that antique advertising featuring these photogenic superstars can be as collectible as the items themselves. Early Steiff catalogs, mailers, and advertisements give unique insights into the design and marketing priorities of the company over time. They can also provide interesting metrics like prices, weights, and minimum orders, and even company or distributors' names, addresses, and contact information.

Check out this amazing piece of ephemera featuring Steiff's legacy Jocko chimpanzees.
There is much to learn from this simple 3" x 5" card. This all original example was produced around 1912 for Steiff's business partner in Paris. The front of this double sided, cardboard card shows a full color image of six Jockos playing in a miniature bedroom. The space is furnished with three wooden chairs and a bed. There is also a framed and matted picture on the wall. Three Jockos don turn of last century style dresses detailed with pleated fronts and decorative embroidery. Two others wear blue playsuits with white trim. And one is just simply in his birthday suit. The Jocko on the far right seems upset, and her friend just to her left appears worried about that. Steiff always had a great way of capturing these emotional subtleties in their early images. You can also see Steiff branding on the top left side of the image. The vignette is simply irresistible.

The back of this time capsule is equally as interesting, but for different reasons. It has a simply rendered map of turn of last century Paris, with a red square indicating the location of the Steiff distributorship at 23 Rue des Petites-Hotels. The words on the card summarize as: "Fabric Toy Factory, Margarete Steiff, located at 23 Rue des Petits Hotels in Paris with the head office in Giengen on the Brenz River in Germany. Offering toys and animals, dolls, kites, and pincushions made from felt, plush, velvet, etc. Winner of the grand prize at the World's fairs in Saint Louis in 1904 and Brussels in 1910."

The actual intended purpose of this card is not clear. It doesn't have a space for an address or stamp, so it could not be mailed like a postcard as we know them today. And it is a little large for a standard business card. It might have been put in an envelope as a mailer, or it could have been handed out at a trade show or exhibition as a mini brochure. The map on the back suggests that the location may have been hard to find, and/or that the location encouraged visitors.

A simple google search finds that today, 23 Rue des Petites-Hotels in Paris is occupied in part by the Al Dente Agency. According to their website, Al Dente describes itself as: “We are an integrated creative agency based in Paris and Rome, believing in the cultural aura of luxury brands.” Perhaps its principals could feel the Steiff love - and aura - when they considered this location for their business in the City of Lights? Above you can see what the street looks like today from the on-the-ground perspective; the image is from

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this Jocko card has given you a little insight into the company's turn of last century monkey business.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2023

This Antique Image Featuring Steiff's Record Peter Is Pretty As A Picture

This reader's question is the real-wheel-deal indeed! And just goes to show you how far back, and how deeply, some of Steiff's legacy patterns resonate with people all around the world. Zuzana from Slovakia writes,

"Good evening,

I have a very special question for you and would be really grateful if you can help me. I am a restoration and conservation student from Academy of Fine Art and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. I am working on this gelatine photograph of two girls with a goat in the middle. One of the girls has a pull toy monkey and I am guessing it's a Steiff toy. I was just curious, if you maybe will have any kind of information about this specific toy. This photo is the only I have and no more information was attached. Maybe you as a professional will see something I cannot.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you and thank you so so much.

Have a nice day and Greetings from Slovakia, Zuzana."

This delightful inquiry falls beautifully at the intersection of antique ephemera and Steiff history.
It is always fascinating to see Steiff items appearing in photographs of yesterday - or even last century. What you see here in the photo from Zuzana is definitely one of Steiff's most beloved and signature items - a chimpanzee on a four wheeled cart, or what is traditionally called a "Record Peter." Here on the left you can see a very early Steiff print advertisement for this very product, the image is from D. Ayers and D. Harrison's, Advertising Art of Steiff, Teddy Bears and Playthings.

Let's focus on the history and details of this marvelous monkey.
Steiff's Record Peter is unquestionably the most well-known novelty based on the company's legacy Jocko the Chimp pattern. This plaything consists of a Jocko riding upon a metal chassis hand cart which glides along on four wooden wheels - usually painted red. When Record Peter is pulled, his arms and legs swing back and forth in synchrony, giving the appearance that he’s working hard to keep his vehicle in motion. Record Peter made his debut in 1912 in 25 cm. As such, this photo was taken in 1912 at the earliest. Here on the left you can see a lovely legacy and most likely mid-century Steiff Record Peter with his original box, the image is from

The Record Peter design was an immediate sensation upon its introduction. Steiff's 1912 catalog described him as: “Record Peter, in silky brown mohair plush, seated on a self-drive chassis with sturdy wooden wheels and automatic sound box. Virtually unbreakable mechanism. Simply has to be pulled along by attached cord.” This novelty also came in a number of cataloged and colorful forms and size variations through the early 1940s. These included examples ranging from 10 to 30 cm, as well as rarities made in red, blue, yellow, white, green, red, and black mohair. Each of these colorful characters was decorated with a festive neck ruff. Given his longevity in the line, he also appeared once in a blue moon in some unconventional and/or not cataloged fabrics, including artificial silk plush and cotton plush. These "non-mohair" fabrics usually suggest that the item was made just before, during, or after one of the world wars. You can see two prewar variations on Steiff's Record Peter design below; the one on the left is made from all felt and wears a matching fez and the one of the right is made from cinnamon colored mohair. The image is from the author's collection. 

Due to his popularity, it is no surprise that Record Peter was one of the first items Steiff manufactured when the factory reopened for toy making business post WWII.
A 25 cm version was produced in brown silk plush in 1949, then in brown mohair through 1970. Even though he has not "officially" appeared full time in the line for nearly half a century, he remains one of the most cherished and timeless Steiff designs amongst collectors today.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this fabulous photo (and its contents) has been a picture perfect experience for you.

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