03 November 2010

Mary Meyer Elephant Pin Cushion

My name is Walter Meyer and I have been writing about my experience working with my Mother, Mary Meyer and the stuffed toy business. During the 1930’s and early 1940’s Mary Meyer manufactured animal pin cushions and oil cloth covered stuffed toys.

 The two products – animals pin cushion and oil cloth covered stuffed toys are very similar in design.  The major difference is the outside covering of the animals.  Pin cushions are made of cotton percale fabric, so pins and needles can be pushed through the fabric.

Oil cloth covered stuffed toys are made, so that they may be washed or wiped clean after a child has gotten them dirty.  The outer covering resists water, but it is not soft and cuddly as toys are today.

In the 1930’s and 40’s the oil cloth was practical as it could be washed many times.  In the 1930’s and 40’s kitchen tables were covered with oil cloth, as it could be easily wiped clean, when kids spilled food or milk.  For that same reason it was practical to use in the making of stuffed toys.

During that period Mary Meyer made pin cushions in the form of Scotties, Lambs, Horses, Ducks, Cats and other animals.  These exact same designs could be made with oil cloth and became stuffed toys. 

So, animal pin cushions and oil cloth stuffed toys were very closely related.  The stuffing material for both was cotton stuffing, as washable foam rubber had not been invented yet.  That only came along in the mid 1950’s.

The Elephant Pin Cushion pictured here was made in the early 1940’s.  The exact same pattern was use through the 1930’s.  The ears were made of felt as was the tail and in this case the centerpiece that covered his forehead.   Again this pin cushion was stuffed by hand with cotton through an opening in its belly, which was sewn closed after the stuffing operation.

The eyes were sewn on by making a French knot as the center of the eye, inserting the needle through a Black felt circle for the eye and sewing through the elephant’s head and coming out where the second eye should be, adding the second Black felt eye, adding another French knot for the second eye, and then inserting the needle, make a few blind stitches and then cutting off the thread.

The final work on the Elephant was tying a ribbon around its neck and tying a bow on the back of its head.  When tying the ribbon a tiny spool of thread is tied into the neck ribbon, more to make the animal more attractive than for practical use.  Finally 5 brass safety pins are pinned on the Elephant to complete its decoration.

Sad to say there were no name tags saying made by Mary Meyer.  The only people who recognize these animals are few and far between.  Hopefully a few animal pin cushions may surface, if enough people read this blog.

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