On an unusually warm November day, with some friends of ours, we set out to visit the Steiff Museum in Giengen, roughly an hour and a half east of Stuttgart. Steiff is a pretty much the inventor of the stuffed animal and the Teddy Bear, even though the name sake for the bears was Teddy Roosevelt. With a baby on the way, I thought it would be a sweet idea to get a Steiff teddy bear to take monthly pictures with as the acorn grows up, and as an ode to the fact that he/she will be born in Germany.
The tour of the museum starts out very Disney-like. There is a small theater with a sewing room set up. The voice of Margarete Steiff is played and she tells her story - from contracting polio as a child that left her unable to walk, to running her own seamstress business, and finally, making a stuff elephant pin cushion from felt, which eventually captured the hearts of children. She was soon swamped with order for the little elephants, and soon received requests for other animals - cats, dogs, monkeys, giraffes, and many, many more. Her motto was, ''Für Kinder, nur die Beste ist gut genug!'' For children, only the best is good enough!
From there, you enter into a replica of a work studio. In 1897, Margarete's nephew, Richard, had joined her new company and invented the teddy bear in 1902, complete with movable limbs. He studied animals and their movements to try to get them as real and life-like as possible. While earlier stuffed animals were made from felt, Richard's new bear was made with a mohair plus. He presented the prototype bear at the Leipzig World Fair where an American investor ordered 3000 of them.
As we left the workshop, we were led though a series of exhibits that told the story of the 3000 bears and showcased all the different Steiff stuffed animals. The whole thing was a little cheesy, but the kids we were with (1.5 and 4) absolutely loved it! At the end, we find out that the 3000 bears were never found after the ship they were on, pun-fully dubbed the Teddytanic, sunk in the Atlantic.
Once out of the exhibit, there is a large area with tons of giant stuffed animals on display. Most of them are set up to be ''ridden'' and you can bet that the kids, and the kids at heart, tried them out! They had horses, lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), and even an elephant! There was also a display of Steiff memorabilia from the late 1800s though present days, including the various iterations of the teddy bear and other plush animals that were produced over the years.
There is even a small workshop where you can see some of the larger animals being made (every plush is sewn by hand!). The day we were there, they were working on a couple of giraffes. Also in the workshop is a display showing how the bears are made - from cutting the fabric, to sewing them, stuffing them, and finally, testing them to make sure each animal meets Steiff's strict quality standards. Being an engineer, I was really hoping that we could see the actual factory where the animals are made, but alas, it was just a museum.
As with any good museum, the tour ended in a gift shop where you could buy any of the Steiff products. Now, these aren't the cheapest stuffed animals. They start at about 20€ and can get as expensive and multiple hundred of Euros. But, here's a little secret, just outside of the museum and gift shop is the factory outlet. Here, you can buy seconds of some of the plush animals. For whatever reason, these ones did not meet the standards of Steiff - maybe the ears were a little crooked, or the eyes too close together. But in all honesty, they looked identical, were still of very good quality, and some of them were up to half off, or more. We ended up buying a teddy bear and a small elephant for the acorn from the factory outlet. I can't wait to take monthly pictures with the bear to see how he/she grows!
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89537 Giengen an der Brenz
Adults are 10€, children are 6€. Under 6 is free.
Daily, from 10 AM - 6 PM, except 25 and 26 December, and 1 January. Limited hours on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve
The whole museum is very kid friendly, except for maybe the prices at the end!