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Steiff - The Story

Margarete Steiff – Making children's dreams come true

Our founder Margarete Steiff was a remarkable woman in many respects. Exceptional for the time, she fought for her place in life as a young girl, against many odds, and became an independent entrepreneur.


With a pincushion in the shape of a small fabric elephant, she wrote the first chapter of an unprecedented success story that is still being written today, after more than 140 years.Thanks to the loving dedication and quality awareness of all employees, the personal history of Margarete Steiff and Margarete Steiff GmbH remain inseparably linked to this day.

"Freedom is believing in yourself - Margarete Steiff


Margarete Steiff was born

On 24 July 1847, our company founder Margarete was born in Giengen an der Brenz. At the age of 18 months, she suffers from polio. The cheerful Margarete fights for her place in life despite her severe limitations.



The first step towards self-employment

Margarete founds her felt clothing shop and sells successfully self-made garments and household articles. She was soon able to employ a number of seamstresses.


The Elefäntle is created

The official founding date of our Steiff manufactory. Margarete sees the pattern for a small fabric elephant in a fashion journal. She sews the "Elefäntle" according to this pattern. The felt elephant, intended as a pincushion, soon becomes a popular children's toy. The first Steiff catalogue is published soon and shows not only elephants but also monkeys, donkeys, horses, camels, pigs, mice, dogs, cats, rabbits and giraffes.


The Margarete Steiff felt goods factory is founded
On 3 March 1893, the toy factory is registered in the commercial register as "Margarete Steiff, Filzspielwarenfabrik Giengen/Brenz". Our toys are presented for the first time at the Leipzig Toy Fair. Margarete now employs 4 sewers and 10 home workers.


Harrods sells first Steiff products
Our first foreign business relationship with Harrods, London, is established.


Richard Steiff becomes part of the company
Richard Steiff, Margarete's favourite creative nephew, joins the company after attending the School of Applied Arts in Stuttgart and studying in England. His animal sketches are the basis for many of our Steiff creations.


The Teddy Bear is born
Richard Steiff designs the "Bear 55 PB", the world's first plush bear with movable arms and legs. The original. While searching for the right material, Richard finds cuddly mohair plush, produced by the Schulte pile weaving mill in Duisburg. Richard is allowed to present his bear at the Leipzig Toy Fair and it immediately conquers the world. The breakthrough comes when an American dealer discovers the bear and orders 3000 of them. The bear becomes a sales success in the USA.


A new building is being built
The east building, popularly known as the "virgin aquarium", is built in a double glass steel construction. Later, other buildings of this type follow, which are now listed as historic buildings.


"Steiff - Button in Ear" - a trademark is being created
To protect the Steiff animals from imitation, Franz Steiff, Margarete's nephew, develops the trademark, the famous "button in the ear", a trademark that is still protected today. Initially, the button has an elephant on it, but over the years this is replaced by the lettering "Steiff".


The Steiff bear becomes the Teddy bear
American President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was "Teddy", played a major role in the success of the Steiff bear and in giving it its name. He refused to shoot a helpless bear tied to a leash during a hunting trip. As a result, he was portrayed by cartoonist Cliffort K. Berryman in the Washington Post along with a small bear. This is the best publicity for our Teddy Bear, the Teddy Boom begins and our Steiff brand achieves worldwide recognition.


Teddy Bear Boom
Steiff produces 1,700,000 toys and 973,999 teddy bears with 400 employees and 1,800 home workers!


Margarete dies
At the age of 61, Margarete Steiff dies on 9 May in the presence of her family as a result of pneumonia. After her death, the company is continued by her nephews and the toy and plush range is further expanded.


Introduction of assembly line production
During the hard war and post-war years, Steiff has to adapt its assortment - cellulose-like materials give rise to the so-called "paper teddy bear", toys made of domestic woods are added to the range.

The Golden Twenties again revive the demand for fabric and plush. Steiff introduces assembly line production to meet the high demand for our products.


First cooperation with Disney
In 1931, the first figures were created together with Disney. A partnership that still continues today.


A new start
After the end of the Second World War, Steiff ventures a new start. Just one year later, our company employs almost 1000 people. 5 years later, almost twice as there number of staff.


Mecki the hedgehog conquers the world
The comic figure "Mecki" is produced under licence by Steiff, "Hedgehog Mecki" and teddy bear "Zotty" conquer the world.


100 years of Steiff
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the company, our Steiff Museum opens in Giengen. In the same year, we start producing limited edition replicas for collectors and lovers.


The Steiff Club is founded
Our Steiff Club for lovers and collectors of Steiff products was launched on 1 April 1992. Our first subsidiary in the USA, Steiff North America Inc. was founded.



The Year of Charities
World record at a charity auction in benefit of MAP in Monaco in October: € 213,720.00 a Korean collector paid for one of our specially designed Steiff Teddy Bears.

In November, the huge charity in aid of the Red Cross will take place in London. Steiff bears accessorised by Madonna, Shirley Bassey, Charlotte Church and other world stars raised more than £50,000. In December, a Steiff Bear from 1912 will be auctioned at Christie's in London for €150,212.87. Also this year, our first Steiff children's collection, manufactured under licence, is launched.


Opening of the Fantastic Steiff Museum
On the occasion of the company's 125th anniversary, our new Steiff Museum in Giengen opens its doors. Look forward to animated dream worlds on an area of 2,400 m², exhibition of historical Steiff animals, the world's largest Steiff petting zoo and the largest and longest Steiff snake slide.


First Steiff Summer in Giengen
For the first time, the Steiff Summer will be taking place on our company campus in Giengen - a big summer party that is all about Steiff friends and families and offers lots of fun and excitement for all ages.