Cool Things - Steiff Pull Toy
Both the German woman who designed this toy and the Kansas boy who played with it were invalids.
Margarete Steiff, founder of the famous German company bearing her name, was confined to a wheelchair at a young age. Herbert Huff, the boy who received this Steiff donkey as a gift, was a shut-in from infancy. It is an example of how toys can bring joy to all sorts of people.
The Steiff Company, still in business today, was started by Margarete Steiff. Polio paralyzed Margarete's lower body while she was quite young, but it did not affect her desire to lead an independent life. In the late 1870s she established a successful felt-making business and sewing workshop. Just a few years later, Margarete made a handful of felt pincushions in the shape of an elephant. Observing that her nephews liked playing with the elephants as toys, Margarete made more and carried them in her workshop. As the popularity of Steiff creations grew, other animals were added to the line. By the early 1890s illustrated catalogs were offering a variety of felt animals--including donkeys.
This Steiff donkey is made of gray wool felt, with a red felt blanket and brown leather saddle. Its harness is leatherette, and its feet are mounted onto wheeled axles. In the donkey's left ear is the trademark "Steiff" button, first used by the company in 1904. This particular style of button dates from 1910-1927.
Herbert Huff received this donkey pull-toy as a gift in the early to mid-1920s. An invalid from birth, Herbert's poor health and inability to play in the manner of most children--he died in 1927--is one reason the toy is so well preserved.
Herbert's older sister, Othene, donated the donkey and several other toys used by her brother to the Kansas Museum of History in 1997.
Entry: Cool Things - Steiff Pull Toy
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: January 2004
Date Modified: December 2012
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.