­History Of Stuffed Toys

­History Of Stuffed Toys


Snuggies, plushies, snuggly animals, and stuffed animals are all names for stuffed animals, and chances are you've owned at least one of each during your life. Plushies are the most coveted of all toys for young children, serving as security blankets and comforters and being the most cherished of all toys. Stuffed animals, monsters, aliens, and even household objects are available from toy shops throughout the world, and they're all stuffed nowadays.

The question is, where did all of these adorable, cuddly stuffed animals get their cuteness? It doesn't matter if you favor low-cost plushies like the never-ending stream of new TY plushies or higher-end options like Steiff; the history of stuffed animals is fascinating.

Since the dawn of recorded history, cultures worldwide have painted, carved, and even chiseled animal figures and heads to produce lifelike reproductions. Contrary to popular belief, the first real stuffed toys were developed in Roman times with the invention of rag dolls. Poor children, unable to buy expensive wooden carvings, crafted these dolls from fabric scraps and stuffed them with more of the same or straw. Dolls as far back as 300 BC have been discovered.


In 1880, the German firm Steiff became the first commercial producer of stuffed animals. Steiff made its stuffed animals with upholstery-making technology they had invented just for that purpose. Toy company Hasbro introduced the Ithaca Kitty in 1892 as one of their first mass-produced plush animals. As opposed to older traditional rag dolls, Richard Steiff's plush furlike fabric-covered bear debuted in 1903.

In the United States, Morris Michtom, inspired by President "Teddy" Roosevelt holding a bear cub, developed the first teddy bear. The first patented stuffed toy was Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit, which was released in 1903. For a brief period in the 1930s, the United States saw a rise in the popularity of these hand-made, stuffed socks monkeys.

In the past, children used to play with stuffed ragdolls and animals fashioned from hessian and sticks. These toys were stuffed with straw and hay and produced by hand in Roman times. They would have been a pleasant pleasure in a society when childhood was largely about duties if children also got to play with clay, wood, and wax creatures.

When Margarete Steiff produced a stuffed elephant from a magazine design in 1880, the Victorians celebrated the start of a commercial stuffed animal enterprise.

Even though they began as pincushions, she quickly realized that youngsters were also fond of the stuffed animals she was making, which featured pigs and dogs, and cats. After Margarete's success with stuffed animals, she produced her designs, resulting in the well-known Steiff Teddy Bear.

The popularity of teddy bears has risen. Even when Steiff stopped making stuffed animals, other toymakers jumped on the bandwagon, and the toy business exploded. As stuffed animals grew in popularity, so did the number of options available. By the 1950s, the selection and diversity of stuffed toys had risen dramatically.

Many toy manufacturers of the time, including Dean's Rag Toys and Merrythought, took use of the new technology available at the time. Merry thought even went so far as to purchase a filling machine, while Chad Valley used its TV popularity to create Sooty and Sweep toys.

Stuffed Animals in the 21st Century: 

(The original stuffed elephant, produced in 1880)

A stuffed elephant pattern she discovered in a magazine in 1880 led Margarete Steiff to start making them. When she saw youngsters playing with her pincushions, she immediately switched to making toys out of them. By the 1890s, her firm was manufacturing a wide range of stuffed animals, including dogs, cats, and pigs, most of which she created herself. Within six years, she had sold over 5,000 of these stuffed creatures.

(An exact reproduction of a vintage Steiff bear)

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, who was president, went on a hunting trip in 1902 and saved a captured bear cub from being slain. When a store owner named Morris Michtom spotted the bear, he decided to reproduce the Steiff plush toys in his shop, and the Washington Post used it to create an iconic cartoon. The Teddy Bear was the name he gave to his plush version. A Teddy Bear Icon was formed not long after, in the same year, that the Steiff business started making them. The Ideal Toy Firm, Michtom's company, grew to be one of the leading toy makers in the United States of America. As a result of Steiff's high-quality standards for safety, materials, and craftsmanship, they became one of the most well-known brands in the world.


At first, stuffed animals were a toy only available to those who could afford to buy them or for those who could sew them together from discarded rags and cloth scraps. T Teddy Bears and other plush toys manufactured by firms like Gund and Mattel were a childhood staple when mass production began in the early 1900s. Toy sales soared after World War II, thanks to the postwar baby boom and companies like the Wallace Berry Company (later known as Applause), which produced licensed Disney, Warner Bros., and Jim Henson toys, as well as Mary Meyer Corporation, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Jerry Elsner, Mattel, and many more.

Toymakers began adding fictitious characters from films and cartoons to their line of plush toys in the 1980s, and the market for stuffed animals as we know it was born. Several toy companies, such as Mattel and American Greetings, helped popularise characters like Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street. Toys like TY, which sold bears and other figurines in every color and design, dominated the market in the 1990s, turning them into collectibles. Companies like Build-a-Bear Workshop popularized the urge for personalized toys, and the rest of the world hasn't looked back since!

With all the production going on these days, stuffed animals are everywhere, and they're not just a novelty for kids. They're essential for zoos, and they're great for adults as well. They're also a top-selling toy, with devotees ranging in age from infants to grandparents. Even if you've never had a stuffed animal before, it's impossible not to like them. Manufacturer and distributor License 2 Play offers a variety of plush toys from licensed companies like Sausage Party and Finding Dory and the Angry Birds Movie.


 Learn more on history of stuffed toys.

Back to blog