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Margarete Steiff Joins Distinguished Roster of Honorees in Prestigious Toy Hall of Fame

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LINCOLN, RI (October 14, 2020) — Steiff North America is honored to announce that the Toy Industry Association™ (TIA) has bestowed its highest award upon the founder of our company. Margarete Steiff (1847-1909) has been inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. She is known as the pioneer who sewed the world’s very first plush toy, changing the world of play forever. Her legacy will be recognized during the TIA’s annual Toy of the Year (TOTY) Awards, known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry, set to be held virtually on February 12, 2021.

“It is hard to imagine a more fitting honoree for the Toy Industry Hall of Fame,” said Jim Pitocco, President of Steiff North America. “Margarete became one of the world’s earliest female CEOs, despite societal norms and her physical disabilities. More than a century after her death, her long-stated philosophy is still the company’s guiding principle: ‘Only the best is good enough for our children’,” he added.

Born in 1847 in Giengen an der Brenz, Germany, Margarete Steiff was stricken with polio at 18 months old and would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Even though the disease had left her permanently paralyzed, she learned to use her one good arm to operate a sewing machine — becoming skilled enough to begin making and selling clothing under her own brand name.

While thumbing through a fashion magazine of the era, Margarete noticed a pattern for a small elephant pincushion. She decided to make a few of these as gifts for friends and family. Soon, the children of Giengen had adopted and repurposed the pincushions as the world’s first soft toys. Suddenly, an entirely new kind of plaything was born, replacing the wooden and tin toys and hard bisque dolls of the era.

By 1893, Steiff’s company shifted away from the clothing business to focus exclusively on toys. The growing entity gained its biggest boost in 1897, when her nephew, Richard Steiff, joined the firm. He went on to invent the Teddy bear in 1902, undoubtably the most famous toy of all time. And by 1907, Margarete Steiff GmbH was producing more than 1 million Teddy bears a year. Still based in Germany, her company continues to thrive today — more than 140 years after its founding.

Margarete Steiff joins an impressive roster of 77 toy industry luminaries who have been inducted into the Hall since it was established in 1984, including those who brought to life Mickey Mouse (Walt Disney), Barbie (Ruth and Elliot Handler), The Muppets (Jim Henson), and more.

For additional information on Steiff and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, please visit and


About Steiff North America

Headquartered in Lincoln, Rhode Island, Steiff North America is the U.S. division of the German-based toy manufacturer Margarete Steiff GmbH. The wholly-owned subsidiary markets and distributes Steiff products throughout North America. Its signature lines include the “Soft Cuddly Friends” assortment of accessibly-priced, contemporary toys made from ultra-soft fabrics, in addition to its Classic Collection of adult collectibles and luxury gifts handcrafted from premium materials.

About the Toy Industry Association™ Hall of Fame

Founded in 1916, The Toy Association, Inc. is the not-for-profit trade association representing all businesses that design, produce, license, and deliver toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages. The TIA Hall of Fame was established more than three decades ago to recognize toy professionals who have made significant contributions to the industry and the impact they have had on the lives of children. Honorees are featured in an interactive display at The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

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