Steiff has had many milestones throughout its lengthy history. Founded in 1880, the company has been creating soft toys for adults and children for nearly 140 years. A rival of America’s Morris Michtom, both the Steiff company and Michtom’s Ideal Toy and Novelty claim to be the originators of the teddy bear, Steiff has endured where other plush firms have gone belly-up. One of the reasons for its survival in such an emotionally charged and unpredictable industry is that it is willing and able to reinvent itself. Case in point: Steiff North America, the U.S. division of the firm, is rebranding itself as a baby- and kid-friendly corporation. Not big news in Europe, where the company has always been considered synonymous with children, Steiff is now gearing up in 2018 and into 2019 to be recognized as a must-have for toddlers, tots, tweens, and every age in between! Meet Steiff’s headline-grabbing Soft Cuddly Friends.
Back in the 1950s—1953, to be exact—a silly, wistful song became a huge novelty hit. Sung by a 10-year-old named Gayla Peevey, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” captured the imagination of disc jockeys, jukebox managers, and the record-buying public. It also fueled the desires of enterprising zookeepers and animal custodians. The zoological society of Oklahoma City used that ditty as a launchpad for raising revenue to buy a hippo for their facility. Urging kids to donate nickels, dimes, quarters, and even a dollar (which was a lot in 1953), the Oklahoma City zoo managers actually got their Christmas wish, too, and put the collected funds toward bringing Mathilda the Nile hippopotamus to their enclosure! The purchased pachyderm became an instant celebrity, and her likeness popped up everywhere around town. Critters in the zoo have that ability to become superstars and VIBs (very important beasts).
Do you believe in kismet? Or, if not the sweeping hand of fate, do you think that there is such a thing as a really, really special coincidence that happens at the most ideal time? I know I do! This week, I was doing some virtual desktop cleaning—it’s much easier to clear out, clean up, and empty old computer files than actual file cabinets—when I came across the image of an absolutely adorable plush pal. I didn’t recognize it as any I’d blogged about, and my curiosity was piqued. So, putting on my investigative “cub reporter” hat, I let my e-mail account and my keyboard unlock the mystery of who was that adorable pet: it was a Bellzi.