Born in 1847, Margarete Steiff contracted a serious illness when she was just 18 months old. Partially paralysed, it was feared that she wouldn't survive - and no-one anticipated that she would be independent and self-reliant. She was a fighter, though, and was taken to school by her siblings and, by the age of 17, she was a qualified seamstress.
By 1874 Margarete was working from her own tailor's shop in her parents' converted home. She ran this successfully, eventually employing other seamstresses as the business grew. The first stuffed toy she made was a small elephant pin cushion - but soon people were buying it as a toy for their children - and, from there, Margarete Steiff went on to develop the business which is today renowned the world over. Steiff Bears were a later addition to the catalogue - other stuffed animals came first. It was Margarete's nephew, Richard Steiff, who designed and created the first bears with moveable arms and legs and using the mohair plush which is still in use today. Branding was important to the Steiff company and Franz Steiff, another nephew, created the "Steiff - button in ear" to separate the Steiff bears from competitors.
Sadly, Margarete Steiff died in 1909 but her legacy lives on and the Steiff Company today produce a vibrant catalogue full of creative limited edition Steiff Bears as well as other animals and soft toys.