Europe’s most celebrated soft toys, the teddy bears with buttons in their ears (‘Knopf im Ohr’) are manufactured in an architecturally revolutionary factory building in this small town 32 km north-east of Ulm. Margarete Steiff (1847-1909), a native of Giengen was partially-paralysed at the age of 18 months, but from a dressmaking studio in her father’s house established a company making felt toys, moving in 1888 to a building designed by her brother. Her nephew Richard Steiff was largely responsible for the company subsequent growth, and for the construction in 1903 of an iron and glass building, 30 m long, 12 m wide and 9.4 m high, with an outer shell consisting of a continuous double-glazed wall and a flat roof. Three floors within are supported on iron lattice-work columns. The iron castings and forgings were provided by the Eisenwerke Munchen. The building was subsequently extended.
The Steiff company has a factory shop and an interactive museum on the premises, and other aspects of the history of Giengen are illustrated in the nearby municipal museum which includes a general store of 1904, and brushmakers’ and clock-face makers’ workshops.