Stuffed toys are probably the most popular type of toys around the world. They are appreciated both by children and adults alike, as they have a kind of cuteness that is hard to ignore. But, did you ever wonder how this type of toys appeared? How created the first stuffed animals and how did they look like back in the days? Even if they are rather common these days and you can find them in a wide variety of options, stuffed toys also had their own humble beginnings.
The first stuffed animals’ versions appeared somewhere at the beginning of the 19th century. Their purpose was to offer entertainment and companionship to children, and they managed to remain among the kids’ top preferences ever since.
However, stuffed toys are believed to have appeared even earlier, during the reign of the Roman Empire. In those days, rag dolls, made out of pieces of fabric and stuffed with straws were made for children coming from poorer families. These families could not afford to get their children wooden carvings, as rich children got, so rag dolls were their best option.
The modern versions of stuffed animals, even in the 1800s, were made out of plush or terrycloth and were stuffed with cotton or wood wool. With discovery of new materials, modern stuffed toys started to be filled with synthetic fiber batting, and beans and pellets made out of plastic. But, the preference for plush or terrycloth remained.
After all, stuffed toys are appreciated for their softness and cuddly look. Also, most children enjoy taking their favorite stuffed animal for bedtime. So they will sleep better knowing that they are not alone.
Concerning stuffed animals that were made for commercial purposes, it is believed that the Steiff Company, from Germany, was the first one that sent stuffed toys to stores. It’s possible to see a replica of the famous Steiff teddy bear at the Steiff Museum in Giengen, Germany. Unfortunately, no original Steiff teddy bear survived up to our days.
When the company first started to make stuff toys, new technology was used, which was initially developed to manufacture upholstery. But, the idea worked and the Steiff stuffed toys became famous rather fast.
Later on, in 1892, the Ithaca Kitty appeared in the US, becoming one of the first mass-produced stuffed toys in the country. In 1903, it was Richard Steiff once more that came with the idea of making a teddy bear out of a soft, fur-like fabric, known as plush. The idea was so much appreciated that even in our days most stuffed animals are still made out of plush.
Besides, it is worth mentioning that during the Great Depression in the US, stuffed monkeys were made out of socks. These toys were usually handmade and were supposed to replace the stuffed toys in times of financial challenges.
So, since the first time stuffed animals appeared, they mainly remained the same. Only the materials from which they are made and those used for stuffing changed, together with the manufacturing technologies. The plush used for modern stuffed animals is softer and, in most cases, synthetic fibers are used for stuffing the toys. Concerning their popularity, stuffed animals still have a dedicated section in every toy store or department store, as they are among the most appreciated toys and gifts.