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.

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