History of Steiff Bears

Margarete Steiff GmbH is the oldest and most famous teddy bear and soft toy manufacturer in the world. The history of the company sometimes reads like a fairytale! Margarete Steiff contracted polio when she was just 18 months old, which meant that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

However, this spirited and courageous young woman was not going to let her life be defined by her disability. She learnt sewing and tailoring and soon became a very skilled seamstress. She started up her own small business, initially making ladies' and children's clothes, but soon diversified into other products.

Little did she know, when she was working on a little felt elephant to be used as a pincushion, that she was laying the foundation stone for the international company of the future, Margarete Steiff GmbH.

Margarete Steiff founded her company in 1880 and was joined in 1897 by her nephew Richard Steiff. He was to become the most important figure in the history of the teddy bear. Richard was a talented artist and to get ideas and inspiration he would often visit zoos to sketch the animals. He was particularly fascinated with the brown bears and wanted to make a soft toy that would capture their spirit and charm. Starting with stationary bears made from a course fabric called berlap, Richard then designed the classic bear on wheels. Still not happy that this toy captured the movement of the wild bear he loved, he then spent years developing a limb jointing system.

In 1902 Richard Steiff designed the very first jointed teddy bear, which had string jointing. This was followed by rod jointed bears and then in 1905 Richard’s perfected bear with the revolutionary disk jointing, which is still used today. These bears were gifted with movement and over the following years their descendants took the world by storm.

The company motto is “Only the best is good enough for our children”. By sticking to this over the years the company name has became synonymous with high-quality soft toys, and in particular teddy bears, all over the world. The company is also well known for its “Button in Ear” trademark.

Today the company produces a wide range of soft toys from baby products to limited edition pieces for collectors and everything in between. There really is something for almost everyone!

The Bear Garden has stocked Steiff since opening in 1992 and has been one of their largest UK retailers ever since. We even run trips to the factory in Giengen, so that collectors can visit the birthplace of the teddy bear!

View our great collection of Steiff Bears, click here!