From Pincushion to Plush Toy

Margarete Steiff

Discover now her birth entry:

Württemberg: Landeskirchliches Archiv Stuttgart > Dekanat Heidenheim an der Brenz > Giengen an der Brenz > Taufregister 1847-1860 Band 11

Margarete Steiff

Apollonia Margarete Steiff was born on 24 July 1847 in Giengen an der Brenz as the third of four children. Since the first plush toy, the “Elefäntle”, she still makes millions of children happy today.

At the age of 18 months Margarete fell ill with high fever. After that she wasn’t able to move her right arm without pain and her legs were paralyzed – the consequences of polio. Margarete learned to make her way and remain defiant. Thus she had her will and visited sewing school to become a seamstress like her sister. Because Margarete wasn’t able to use the flywheel of the sewing machine, Margarete quickly turned it and handled it from the other side.

Margarete first worked as a seamstress at the tailor shop of her sisters. Her father installed a tailor room for Margarete in their house in 1874. Three years later she successfully went into business for herself with a felt-clothing shop and was soon able to hire seamstresses. Self-made clothing and household items were on sale.

In 1879 the first “Elefäntle”, an elephant made of felt, saw the light of the tailor room. Originally thought as a pincushion by Margarete, the “Elefäntle” was very well received by children as a plush toy. Thereupon she designed further animals. The manufacture Steiff was then founded in 1880. Sewing plush toys became the main business. Since then the motto is: “Only the best is good enough for children”. Her nephew Richard then developed the flagship and later bestseller: the plush bear 55PB – one of the first teddy bears in the world. Margarete Steiff died from the effects of a pneumonia on 9 May 1909 at the age of 61.