Some years ago when I still did the "Finds of the week" posts, I had some called "I'm a collector" in which I shared vintage items. Over time my collections have mostly stopped growing due to different reasons, but they are still there and still loved. I also have vintage items, some inherited, some gifts, some from fleamarkets, some more interesting than others. So I thought it could be fun to share some of them every, now and then and tell their story.
Welcome to a new nostalgia post in which I will tell you not one tale this time, but three - the tale of blind King Charles, the tale of the eye tin, and the tale of Ada-Ada all of which are connected to one another.
First of all let me take you to a big fleamarket in Tübingen about 30 years ago. We - my ex and I - were still very new at collecting Steiff back then. We made some epic mistakes, but which beginner doesn't, and don't forget, not only didn't we have internet in those times, but there were also not many Steiff books or price guides out there.
So when we found that little blind dog at a stand, we were not at all sure if the asked price of 30 DM was okay. We knew that it was a sitting "Charly", a King Charles Spaniel, famous for their association to King Charles II of England. "Charly" had been produced by Steiff between 1928 and 1936.
You could tell this one had had a bit of rough life. His fur looked a bit sparse here and there, but worst of all, his eyes were missing! We didn't have any eyes for him at home, and even being almost 60 years old, was he worth the money (we were a young couple and couldn't just throw money around)? He did still have his old button with remnants of red tag that was used from 1926 to 1934 underneath. We put him back on the table to think about it, took a few steps and went right back because we know we couldn't leave him there. He was so cute, and we would think of something. I guess that is how plush animals and dolls end up with buttons for eyes, but that wasn't to be our Charly's fate.
Obviously this is him with eyes which brings me to the next tale.
I don't remember at all when and how we stumbled upon the "eye tin" that I have mentioned before. I just remember how excited we were about it. In it there were mostly vintage glass eyes for plush animals, brown, blue, green, blue/green, pink, and of course the small brown ones I showed in the other post.
The first thing to do was to find the right size for Charly to give him his eyesight back. That was so much better! How could we ever even have thought about not taking him home?
Those eyes helped out some other animals over the years, a big one-eyed Fluffy cat, a big llama that had had to make do with some cheap plastic eyes before it came to us, and more.
Finally the tin got put away waiting for new patients to come along, but there weren't any. It was never forgotten completely, standing out there in the open, but the only time it was needed was when I made a teddy of my own. He's black and has blue eyes. I think he was the last one getting eyes from the tin.
I opened it every, now and then, admired the eyes and then put the lid back on.
Only when I started needle felting I thought it was time to put at least some of them to good use.
Here are a few quick pictures now. These are not showing the complete collection of eyes, and you can see I didn't go through dusting them yet, either.
The green eyes for example decided to break out of their bag and jump all over the tin, so they didn't get a picture. Serves them right. One of them smuggled its way into the small collection of bluish/green eyes #2 of which I only have very few. You can tell the difference easily. We are calling them pre-war eyes because it is a beautiful color that was usually used on old cats. It's hard to capture the soft beauty, but you can tell it is not green and it's also not light blue like #4 (which were in the worst shape from the beginning with the paint on the back flaking off very quickly, so most of them are almost clear now).
#1 shows a variety of brown tones including one showing white around the brown. There are more, but some sneaked in with the green.
#3 and #5 are two different kinds of pink eyes used for albino rabbits for example. While #3 are flat painted eyes, #5 have pink glass in the back. I can't be sure, but I always thought they were newer ones.
Maybe I'll get around to clean them up a little, set them up better and take good pictures, but I think you get the idea of the eye tin now.
Time for the third tale which means I'll have to go back to Charly for a moment.
Charly may not have his original Steiff name tag anymore, but he came with a different paper tag on a cord around his neck. We never bothered to try and find out what that tag was about, but we left it on because it seemed to be part of Charly's story. Maybe he had been a gift from a shop or something.
These are both sides of the tag.
One means "50 years of valued workmanship" with the brand ADA-ADA in the center, the other one translates to "Walking well with ADA-ADA".
When I looked it up, I found that ADA-ADA was a big shoe company. It was founded in 1900 by two Jewish brothers (a third brother was co-owner). They started by making children's shoes and later also ladies' shoes. In 1937 they were expropriated and the owners managed to emigrate to the USA in time. After the war they received restitution, the brand didn't go back to them, however. It was one of the biggest of its kind in Germany in the 50s, but finally ceased to exist in 1966.
The name was rather funny. In German "to go ada-ada" is baby talk for taking a walk. From what I read in a history blog they think that the founder was inspired by this term for the name of his business.
If you are as great at math as I am (can you hear my math teacher laughing?), you now know that it's impossible that Charly came with the tag as he was produced until 1936, but ADA-ADA only turned 50 in 1950.
Why should a shoe company or even a single shoe store use old Steiff animals for advertising? (Steiff studio animals were not unusual in shoe stores, by the way, but that's a different story.) My guess would be that a child inherited Charly and put that tag on him, maybe after his name tag had fallen off.
I have thought about taking it off, but I still think it's part of his story even if we will never know what exactly that is.
As long as he doesn't seem to mind ...