Biography of Margarete Steiff, likely inventor of the teddy bear
Credit for inventing the internationally famous teddy bear goes to German seamstress Margarete Steiff. However, there is no reliable confirmation of authorship, as researchers are still debating where exactly the animal first appeared and who sewed it. The history of the toy began in 1902-1903, almost simultaneously in two countries – the United States and Germany. Be that as it may, Steiff’s biography deserves attention because it is fascinating not only from the point of view of the invention of the teddy bear but also as an example of success based on hard work.
Margarete was born in 1847 to a builder and a housewife. When she was one and a half years old, she contracted polio, which prevented her from walking. Despite her illness, Steiff grew up happy and cheerful, surrounded by friends who did everything possible to make her feel comfortable. At the same time, her parents tried to make Margarete walk again. But after an unsuccessful operation, no miracle happened.
A hobby that turned into a successful business
At a young age, the girl decided to learn to sew, but the family was sceptical. Her father believed that this activity would not benefit her future adult life, and Margarete would only end up disappointed. However, the girl was persistent and practised hard.
By the age of 17, it was clear that Steiff would not be able to walk, and she had to think about how she would support herself when her parents were gone. Seeing his daughter’s success in sewing, her father set up a workshop, and Margarete began taking orders for tailoring. Her sisters assisted her. As time passed, Margaret’s services were in demand, and she had to hire workers.
In 1880, before the Christmas holidays, Margaret sewed elephant-shaped pincushions as gifts for the workers. However, they did not go to their intended use – the customers’ children loved the soft animals and played with them. The customers asked Margarete to sew as many of these elephants and other animals as possible. By 1892, when Steiff had its own sewing factory, she produced a stuffed animal catalogue.
The company produced its first soft bear in 1902. This toy was very different from the rest of the range, not only in price but also in design. The teddy bear’s eyes were made of glass, and its paws moved thanks to a special mechanism. In a short time, the bear became the most popular product of the Steiff company.
The world-famous teddy bear
At the same time, in the USA, President Roosevelt won the hearts of his citizens by not killing a bear while hunting. This earned him the nickname Teddy Bear, and people began to take an active interest in the animal-shaped toy. Then, in 1903, American entrepreneurs bought three thousand of Margarete Steiff’s bears at the Leipzig Fair. The bears caused a sensation in the United States. Since then, the plush bear’s appearance has changed, but it remains one of the most popular children’s toys in the world.