Little Bits of History

Glamour Doll

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2010

Barbie as she looked in 1959

March 9, 1959: Barbie, the glamorous doll from Mattel, Inc., is shown at the American International Toy Fair. Barbie has out-sold every other doll in history. She has been an important part of the “toy fashion doll” industry. She has been the subject of many controversies and lawsuits as well the subject for parodies. Barbie Millicent Roberts has had an on and off relationship with Ken Carson since 1961. She has had over 40 pets including a lion cub and a zebra. She has been in possession of a fleet of vehicles and has a pilot’s license (and she has been both a flight attendant and an astronaut).

Ruth and Elliot Handler had a daughter named Barbara. Ruth noticed that Barbara preferred playing with dolls that resembled adults. The only available way to do so at the time was with paper dolls so Elliot, one of the co-founders at Mattel, Inc., took the idea of a three dimensional adult doll to work, where it was rejected as impossible.

The Handlers created a doll who was inspired by Lilli, a German doll. Lilli was an adult femme fatale and marketed towards men and the bar scene. However, Lilli became popular with girls who wished to join the adult world of haute couture and female wiles. Eventually, Mattel purchased the rights to the Lilli doll. Lilli was reformed, repackaged, and renamed – Barbie.

Barbie started out life as Caucasian and was blonde or brunette. She has evolved into a world encompassing person, of all shades and hues. Her wardrobe has expanded. Her career choices are legendary. And her friends and family, along with housing and accessories are all available through Mattel, Inc. Barbie is said to be a nearly $2 billion a year industry with three Barbie dolls sold each second.

“I enjoy getting dressed as a Barbie doll.” – Vanna White

“When Ruth Handler introduced Barbie in 1959, she didn’t want any story attached to the doll whatsoever, because she wanted the girls to create it all out of their imaginations.” – Chris Byrne

“Being married is kind of like being a Ken-doll: You don’t get to dress yourself anymore.” – Grover Norquist

“Barbie continues to be the champ of toys, … Mattel has been able to spin gold out of the franchise.” – Jill Krutick

Also on this day, in 1765 Jean Calas was found innocent, three years after his execution.

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