• September 27, 2021

Life-size teddy bears and teddy bears after the war

With life-size plush toys, a new way of playing for a child immediately opens up; They can no longer pretend that a lion or tiger is about to jump into their fantasy jungle, but instead they can have a stuffed toy that is almost as big as the real thing. With toy bears that are 7.5 feet long or giraffes that are 4.5 feet tall, the life-size plush allows the child to bring the real animal to life, all in the comfort of their own home.

The economy in Germany was a disaster after the defeat of the country in the war of 1918. With the Treaty of Versailles in force on June 28, 1919, the territory was ceded to Poland, Belgium, France and Czechoslovakia. Under the newly formed League of Nations, all German colonies were turned over to the Allied powers to administer, which meant that the former German markets were much smaller than they were before. It was during this newly created environment that the once lauded German teddy bear industry that had been lost to British manufacturers during the war, was able to recover.

The original Steiff teddy bears (which were the first teddy bears to be created) were made from mohair, but after the war it was very hard to come by in Germany. To resume the production of teddy bears, it was necessary to look for other types of materials. The founder of the Steiff company, Margarete Steiff decided to use a cellulose fleece that was made from nettle fibers. This particular bear was called ‘Brennessel Bär’ and it was quite uncomfortable to hold as the fibers it was made from were so thick. A total of 19,556 of these bears were produced between 1919 and 1921 and today they are highly valued by collectors for their novelty value.

After the war, Steiff also reverted to using starter button eyes on his teddy bears, but as soon as they were able to go back to having glass eyes (which is what the eyes of their original bears were made of), they were used. universally. Most teddy bears from the early 1920s had clear glass eyes with brown painted backs and black pupils. The classic teddy bear that Steiff was known for stayed very close to his 1905 design: a bear that had long arms, large feet with narrow ankles, a hunched back, and a protruding snout. In 1921, Steiff introduced the kapok filling and since then all bears have been lighter and fatter than before. In the same year, a conveyor belt system was introduced in the [Steiff] company that eventually sped up production, but all the work on the stuffed animals was still done by hand (as it is today).

After the horror of war, it was necessary to lift people’s spirits and Steiff brilliantly read the international mood perfectly. In the 1920s, they introduced a variety of cheerful and lively bears that couldn’t help but make everyone who owned them smile. Some of these teddy were dressed (including one called ‘Teddybu’, which was a classic bear that was white, gold, or dark brown) with a colorful vest. Other teddy bears had brightly colored fur, Teddy Rose, a long-haired pink bear that was available in 1925.

One of Steiff’s most popular novelty bears was Teddy Clown, which was introduced in 1926. He was available in 11 sizes ranging from 9 inches to 45 inches and he wore a distinguished white Pierrot hat and ruff around his neck. Petsy was another teddy bear featured around the same time as Teddy Clown and was noted for his blue eyes and rose-red embroidered nose. Petsy was ‘blessed’ with large ears and with the use of an internal wire frame, she could be moved to different positions. Ten different sizes of Petsy were released in addition to a glove puppet and a few that were on a wheeled chassis.

Imagine the endless hours of fun that can be had with a life-size teddy bear. Any child would swoon with joy after setting his sights on something so wonderful. If you’re looking for the next gift for a special occasion, look no further than a life-size stuffed animal.

© Copyright Shelley Vassall, 2010.

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