Appolonia Margarete Steiff was born July 24, 1847 in Giengen, Germany. As a baby she was crippled with polio, which confined her to a wheelchair whole her life. Despite her disability, she went to primary school and in the 1850s she got sewing lessons with her two older sisters. She learned to operate a sewing machine, she used her strong arm to operate the device. Margarete was a skilled seamstress and from 1879 on, she sold self-made women’s clothing under her own name.
As a hobby she made stuffed animals. Soon she sold pincushions in the shape of elephants to family and friends. Children began to play with her animals as well, so she made more toy animals such as dogs, cats and pigs. An elephant with a curled-S trunk, was the first Steiff trademark.
They increasingly began to focus on toys. In 1893, Margarete Steiff GmbH was founded and they began to focus on toys only, because this transcended the sales of clothing. Although the parents of Margarete Steiff feared that her siblings were destined to work hard to support their sister their entire lives, it was the wheelchair-bound Margarete who started a family dynasty, which lasts for over a century. Margarete died on May 9, 1909 in Giengen of pneumonia.
In 2000, Steiff teamed up with the luxury brand Louis Vuitton to create the world’s most expensive bear. Wearing a designer coat and hat, and accompanied by a miniature Louis Vuitton suit case, the bear sold at a Monaco charity auction in 2000 for an amazing $2.1 million. The buyer was renowned Korean collector Jessie Kim, and the bear now resides at the Teddy Bear Museum in Jeju, Korea.