Collection Spotlight #9: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

This brown stuffed bear mounted on a metal base with metal wheels is likely an early Steiff stuffed animal. He is stuffed with wood chips and wears a brown leather collar. Despite the loss of his eyes, he’s still a handsome creature. This particular model was produced as early as 1892. Metal wheels were used until 1920 when replaced with wood in 1921. He has been a distinguished member of the permanent collection since 2000.

Steiff has the distinction of being the world’s oldest plush toy manufacturer. Margarete Steiff started her career as a seamstress with her sisters. In 1879, she made elephant pincushions as a hobby as an income supplement. Surprisingly, they were well-received by children and Steiff started making other animals including dogs, cats and pigs. By 1890, sales of these soft toys had sky-rocketed and she moved into a larger factory that made nothing but stuffed animals. The company handmade all of the animals to Steiff’s rigorous standards and continue to be handmade today.

Five of her six nephews joined the company. The second oldest, Richard, held a degree in art and spend a lot of time at the zoo sketching animals for design ideas.  He is credited with inventing the modern teddy bear with jointed legs in 1902.

If you are interested in more information about Steiff history, see