03 May 2017

History of Mary Meyer Stuffed Toys

Mary Meyer Stuffed Toy Lamb

#118 Mary Meyer Lamb

Mary Meyer Mfg. Co. was founded in 1933 by Hans – a salesman – and Mary Meyer a seamstress. They were married and started the business in New York City.
Hans had been a very successful Fuller Brush salesman and Mary had worked for Miss Carol – a high-end women’s clothing maker.

In the early 1930s when they started most women’s and children’s clothing were made by the mother or grandmother in the family.  Each woman had a sewing machine and all the needs to make a dress, a shirt or children’s clothing.  Each woman had needles, thread and a tomato pin cushion to hold their pins and needles.

Mary Meyer created a new pincushion design when she made animal pin cushions.  Dogs, cats, lambs and horses were the first animal pin cushion designs, followed by a camel, giraffe and dolls as pin cushions. They were all made of cotton fabric and stuffed with cotton batting.

Mary and “her girls” made them and Hans sold them to Woolworths, Kresge, Kress and all of the 5 & 10 cent stores.  The retail price was 49¢ . Hans also sold to the major department stores of the day- Marshall Field, JL Hudson, Hecht Co, etc.  Hans travelled all over the Eastern US by train carrying his sample case of animal pin cushions.  He also visited the buying office of the major chain stores in New York City.

Though pin cushions were their main product, Mary created some baby toys. Using her animal designs, she made the toys from oil cloth, the same material needed in kitchen table cloths. The toys could be washed off and were clean again.

By early 1940s, with cats and dogs made from oil cloth, Mary had created washable toys for children that Hans would sell.  In the mid-1940s, Hans developed stomach ulcers from the stress of business and the family decided to move to Vermont and live a quieter life.

But in 1948 Hans and Mary Meyer restarted their business. With a small staff of local sewers Mary taught them to make her pin cushions. Hans went back to selling his old customers and the business took off again.

In the late 1940s, Mary found some plush fabric. Plush was the imitation fur fabric and Mary started with her old designs and made them with plush.

In 1950 Mary Meyer printed their first black and white catalog of plush toys and they were off and running.

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