German designer Richard Steiff was born on February 7, 1877 in the German city of Giengen. In 1897 at the age of 20, Steiff joined his aunt Margarete’s toy making enterprise. While attending the School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Stuttgart, he would regularly visit the nearby Nill’scher Zoo and spend much of his time drawing the residents of the bear enclosure. His sketches of the bears were incorporated into the prototype of the toy bear he created in 1902 and code named Steiff Bär.
At its debut at the Leipzig Toy Fair in 1903, Steiff’s bear initially attracted little attention; but its fortunes were saved when an American buyer snapped up the entire lot of 100 bears and ordered another 3,000 just before the exhibition finished.
- The heyday of the Steiff company thus began.
At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, the Steiff’s sold 12,000 bears and received the Gold Medal, which was the highest honour at the event. The kind of toy bear they pioneered acquired the appellation “Teddy” from several legends about Theodore Roosevelt.
- Steiff bears, are identifiable because of a small metal “Steiff” clip which is sewn into the ear. Steiff bears are now very collectable and valuable.
In 1923, Richard Steiff left his wife Else in Giengen Benz, Germany and boarded the SS President Arthur bound for New York City and arrived on March 20, 1923. He continued his manufacture of the Steiff bears until his death.
- Steiff died on March 30, 1939 at the age 62 in Jackson, Michigan, United States.
By the way, How do you start a Teddy Bear race?
… Ready, Teddy, Go!