Many children may fantasize of being surrounded by life-size plush animals and teddy bears.
The dream becomes reality at the Steiff Museum, located in Giengen an der Brenz, home to the world-famous plush toy company and its trademarked “button in ear.”
The history of the Margarete Steiff Toy Company started in 1880 when Margarete Steiff, a self-employed tailor, created a pincushion in the shape of an elephant that she made for her sister-in-law, Anna Steiff. Soon after, Steiff and her seamstresses started to produce more “Elefäntle,” the Swabian word for elephant, in her shop and sold them at the local market.
Children started playing with the pincushions and the world’s first plush animal was born, according to Simone Färber, spokeswoman for the Steiff Museum.
Steiff started to produce more plush animals such as dogs, cats and horses. The first Steiff plush toy catalogue was published in 1892 and defined Margarete’s motto: “only the best is good enough for children,” according to Färber.
“To this very day, this is the official motto of the Margarete Steiff Factory,” Färber said.
Richard Steiff, Margarte’s nephew, joined the company in 1892 and created the first teddy bear with movable arms and legs in 1902. The bear was introduced at a toy fair in Leipzig, where an American businessman ordered 3,000 bears. Soon after, Steiff teddy bears became popular in the U.S. The plush animal was named after President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.
According to Färber, the name originated from a bear hunting trip in Mississippi, where Roosevelt refused to shoot a black bear cub that was tied to a tree.
The incident resulted in a political cartoon published in the Washington Post in 1902 by the Russian immigrant Clifford K. Berryman, giving the president a new image and the bear a new name: “Teddy,” Färber said.
At the museum, visitors will learn about the legend but will also be taken on an adventurous trip through “the world of Steiff,” according to Färber.
The journey starts with Steiff’s tailor’s shop, where she sewed the first elephant pincushion. Afterward, the “Knopf” (button) teddy bear and his friend Frieda take visitors on an interactive tour of the “plush planet.” During the tour, visitors, Knopf and Frieda search for 3,000 lost teddy bears underwater, on the “Teddytanic” ship and at the Antarctic. After successfully locating the lost teddy bears at the “Raum der Freunde,” or friend’s room, patrons can experience a petting zoo with life-size plush tigers, monkeys, brown and polar bears, elephants, camels, a unicorn and more. Another highlight is a 15-meter slide in the shape of a snake for those brave enough to take on the fast and furious ride from the third to the second floor of the museum.
“The slide is considered the world’s largest plush slide,” Färber said.
On the second floor, visitors can learn all about the 130-year history of the Margarete Steiff Factory. Overall, more than 3,000 plush animals are displayed throughout the museum, according to Färber.
Patrons can also follow the process of creating a handmade plush animal at the museum’s workshop.
The museum tour ends at the world’s largest Steiff store, where visitors can find their favorite plush animals, collector’s items, baby and children clothing.
Since it’s all about plush animals, some may think that the museum is mainly for children. According to Färber, many adults, to include retirees and collectors, enjoy the museum’s ‘plush’ atmosphere.
“The museum truly is for children and adults alike. Typically, our visitors are between 3 and 100 years old,” Färber said.
For Christin Schweizer of Stuttgart, who recently visited the Steiff Museum and still treasures her first Steiff plush pig, the museum brought back childhood memories.
“I truly enjoyed immersing back into that world remembering how wonderful childhood is,” Schweizer said.
The Steiff Museum is located at Margarete-Steiff-Platz 1, 89537 Giengen an der Brenz, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets cost €8. English speakers should ask at the ticket desk for the English interactive tour.
A Christmas market will be held in front of the Steiff Museum (Margarete-Steiff-Platz) Dec. 5-8.
The Steiff factory outlet can be found at Alleenstrasse 2, 89537 Giengen an der Brenz.
The Margarete Steiff birth house (Lederstrasse 26, 89537 Giengen an der Brenz) can also be toured. For English guided tours, call civ. 0180-513-1101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, visit www.steiff.com, or call civ. 0180-513-1101.