08 February 2013

Have You Ever Wondered Where All the Vintage Stuffed Dolls Are Today?

I’ve spent most of my life designing and manufacturing stuffed animals and dolls. I took over the job from my mother who was Mary Meyer of the Mary Meyer Manufacturing Company, which was known by most simply as the Mary Meyer stuffed toy company.

Mother and dad, Hans Meyer, started making toys and pin cushions at the company they started in 1933 inNew York City.

I grew up in the family business my entire life. When I was a youngster in the 1940s, I began to pay close attention to the family business. My parents put me to work doing a variety of labor tasks at the company like sweeping floors and other odd jobs around the factory. Of course, that was normal in a family business back in those days. I worked fulltime for 58 years at the Mary Meyer Company and continue to dedicate some of my time to the company today where we still proudly own and operate our family business inVermont.

For the past few months, I have been trying to reconstruct how my mother designed her plush toys and what type of toys she made in the early days.  Mother told me a number of times that when we were manufacturing toys in New York Cityat 3 West 29th Street – just offFifth Avenue – she had 108 girls making items for the company.  But the question is, “What did they make?”


Mother and dad started Mary Meyer Mfg. Co. in 1933 during the depression.  Mother was a very successful seamstress and could sew anything.  She worked for Miss Carroll, a high-end ladies dress maker who made $3,000 dresses for wealthy women in the early 1930s.   Dad was a great salesman.  He sold Fuller Brush Company products and was quite successful.


My parents were a natural team.  She created it, and he sold it.  Now what did they make and sell?  I can go back to the early 1940s and find stuffed animals, but before that in the 1930s, they made stuffed animal pin cushions and Tomato pincushions.


I never asked my mother how she designed the soft products that she made in the early days.  Being a designer myself, I can understand the progression or evolution of design work. Mother began the business with the Tomato Pincushion, then moved to designing the Animal and Doll Pincushions then onto stuffed animals and stuffed dolls. 


In the 1930s almost every woman sewed – dresses for herself and her daughters and possibly shirts and shorts for the boys.  Since women sewed so much, they needed a way to keep and store their pins and needles, so a Tomato pincushion is what they began using.  After begin successful with the Tomato pincushion, mother went a step further in her design work. Using her design talent, she took that Tomato pincushion shape and with a little innovation she was able to design a Scottie dog, Lamb, Horse and a Doll pincushion.  These all became early Mary Meyer pincushions.


During the past few months, I have put together a collection of vintage Mary Meyer Pincushion Dolls.  These dolls were found on the Internet and from different parts of theUnited States.  It makes sense that these pincushions were found from so many different locations because dad traveled the Eastern half of the U.S. and sold the Mary Meyer products to department stores like Marshall Field’s in Chicago; the J.L. Hudson Company in Detroit; the Hecht Company and Woodward & Lothrop in Washington, D.C.; F. W. Woolworth 5 & 10 Cent Stores; and many others


But in the mid1930s, what did those 108 employees make for Mary Meyer Co.?

I may have found part of the answer.  What I found are they made both pincushions and dolls.  Some of these dolls have a loop on top of their heads for hanging.  (See the nearby photo.) It is easy enough to hang them by placing a straight pin on the wall in front of a work area and store pins and needles there.  Looking at the photo here, you can see the second doll down on the right column dressed in red is loaded with pins by a sewer who needed a place to keep them.


By looking at all of the pincushion dolls in the photo, you can see my mother’s evolution of her design work. The design elements are refined each time she made a different style of doll.


If you are wondering how I found these pincushions, they were on Internet sites.  When I went to the eBay website, there were 5,539 pincushions listed.  More than likely, none were made by Mary Meyer as those are few and far between.  But after all, we are talking about dolls that were made 75 years ago and probably sold for 49¢ to 79¢ each in the 1930s.  How many of these vintage pincushions are people hanging on to today.  Possibly more than we think. At the top of the photo is a hang-tag that was on many of Mary Meyer dolls.


If anyone who reads this happens to have a doll pincushion or an animal pincushion please email me with a photo of it and where you live.


Those dolls and animals are part of “My Family” and I love to see them and find out more about where they are today.


You can email me at  walter_meyer@marymeyer.com

Thanks for listening to my story


Walter Meyer

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