The Steiff Bear company was founded by Margarete Steiff. Margarete born in Giengen a small town near Stuttgart in 1847 was a remarkable lady who persevered in the face of adversity an example to us all. Before she was 2 years old she contracted Polio which paralysed both her legs and severely disabled her right arm, she was confined to a wheel chair for the rest of her life.
In 1866 she developed a passion for dressmaking and became a very capable seamstress. By 1877 she had opened a dressmaking shop and received many commissions from the locals. She drew her inspiration from magazines and one day came across a pattern for a toy elephant. She decided to create felt toys of the elephant which became very popular with her customers and it did not take long before other animals were added to the range. Sales grew encouraging her to create a company and exhibit her products to a wider audience at the Leipzig Toy Fair.
In 1897 Margarete’s nephew Richard Steiff joined the company having completed studying at Stuttgart Art School. Richard had a passion for real life bears and it did not take long before he started to model them. He was keen to make them moveable so that they replicated real life.
In 1902 he created the very first String Jointed Bear which he named Bar 55 PB. In 1903 the bear was exhibited at the Leipzig Toy Fair where it attracted a great deal of attention, none more so than from a Buyer for a New York Wholesaler who ordered 3000 bears!
A new factory was built in Giengen to cope with the demand as Richard continued to perfect the jointed bear. By 1907 the factory produced over 970,000 bears all by hand – the company as we know it was properly born.
Tragedy hits the Company as Margarete Steiff passes away on the 9th of May 2009 just before her 62nd Birthday. She had been the inspiration behind the company and her death was felt throughout the Toy Industry. Her Nephews took the company over and have been the guardians of its development.
The interesting thing is that the Steiff Teddy bear is loved by children and collectors alike and can command huge prices at auction – a 2002 Happy Bear recently sold for more than £100,000!
Margarete set the tone, she developed product with the Motto ” Only the Best is Good Enough for our Children” still the company motto of today. Little did she realise when she started out, the legacy she would leave of joy, pride and love to be the owner of a Steiff Bear.