1847: How it all began
On 24th July 1847, Margarete Steiff was born in Giengen on the Brenz, Germany, as the third of four children. When she was 18 months old, she was ill with a high fever, which left her with paralyzed legs and pain when using her right hand.
In spite of her physical limitations, Margarete remained positive and motivated. She went to sewing school at the age of 17, and successfully completed her training as a seamstress. Her older sisters started a women’s tailoring service in 1862. Eight years later, when her sisters left their home town, Margarete continued to sew and tailor, alone.
1874: Foundations and independence
In 1874, Margarete’s father converted their house and built her a small tailor shop. The first money that Margarete earned was used to buy her own sewing machine. Since it was difficult for her to operate the fly wheel on the right hand side, the machine had to be reversed to accommodate her needs. In 1877, Margarete bravely took the step towards independence and founded her own felt clothing business. She was soon able to employ several seamstresses. In the magazine Modenwelt (fashion world) from 8th December
1879, Margarete saw the sewing pattern for a small stuffed elephant. Using this pattern, she made the elephant as a pincushion, but soon the little stuffed animals were very
popular as children's toys.
1880: Margarete Steiff GmbH is founded
The official founding date of Steiff Manufacture was 1880. The first big seller was the elephant, which Margarete’s younger brother, Fritz, sold at the nearby Heidenheim market. Just six years later, Margarete had sold over 5,000 elephants and was designing other stuffed animals too. In 1890, Fritz built a house for his sister, with a flat on the first floor, designed for disabled people, and a small shop on the first floor.
1892: First illustrated Steiff catalogue
Margarete’s creativity and talent was showcased in print. In addition to elephants, the Steiff collection included monkeys, donkeys, horses, camels, pigs, mice, dogs, cats, hares and giraffes. The catalogue also shared Margarete’s company motto which still exists today, “for children, only the best is good enough!"
1893: Steiff toy factory enters trade register
The “Margarete Steiff, felt toy factory Giengen/Brenz” is registered and for the first time, Steiff toys are presented at the Leipzig toy trade fair. Margarete now employed 4 seamstresses and 10 home workers.
1902: The teddy bear is born
Richard Steiff, Margarete’s creative and favorite nephew, entered the company in 1897. His animal sketches were the basis for many Steiff creations. In 1902 he designed the "Bear 55PB" bears, the world’s first stuffed bears featuring moveable arms and legs. At this time, Richard also researched and discovered the cuddly and durable mohair plush, which was produced by the Schulte pile weaving mill in Duisburg, and is still used today in Steiff products. Success quickly came when an American trader discovered the bears and ordered 3,000 of them. The bears began an unprecedented selling success in the USA from 1906 under the name of teddy bear - named after the American president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.
1904-07: "Steiff – Knopf im Ohr" (Button in Ear) - a brand sign is developed
In order to identify and maintain their own high quality, and fend off numerous cheap imitations, Franz Steiff developed the brand sign "Steiff - Button in Ear". At the world exhibition in St. Louis, Margarete was awarded the Grand Prix. With her success, in
1906 she founded Margarete Steiff GmbH, the company name which is still used today. By 1907, an international company arose, continuously expanding its product range. 400 employees and 1800 home workers produced 973,999 teddy bears and a total of around
1909: A brilliant and talented woman leaves a legacy
Margarete Steiff died on May 9, 1909 at the age of 61, following a lung infection. Her nephews took over the company and kept her dreams alive.
1910: Steiff worlds arise
In 1910, Steiff won the Grand Prix at the world exhibition in Brussels. The “Steiff circus”, used mechanically moving figures for the first time. One of the most successful show pieces, "Noah’s ark", came about four years later.
1947: The new beginning
After the war, the Steiff company restarted and in just one year, employed almost 1,000 workers; 5 years later, twice as many were employed.
1980: 100 years of dreams in cloth and plush
The 100 year Steiff company Anniversary is celebrated with the opening of the
Margarete Steiff Museum in Giengen, aptly named “The World of Steiff.”
1992: The Steiff Club is founded
World wide collectors and aficionados of Steiff animal friends enjoy a club with membership advantages and exclusive product editions.