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Birth of a Doll: History of Barbie


Barbie Doll


I had a lot of Barbie dolls growing up and had a lot of fun playing with them. The Barbie Doll was born when a mother (Ruth Handler) noticed her daughter playing with paper dolls and giving the dolls adult roles. At that time most children played with baby dolls, that was the only doll for them. Handler naturally had a knack for business, how could she not being married to co-founder of Mattel Toys! She suggested the idea of an adult bodied doll to her hesitant husband. He wasn’t too keen on the idea nor were the big wigs of Mattel. On a trip to Europe Ruth Handler took notice of a popular German toy doll called “Bild Lilli.” The doll was a full figured, blonde bomb shell, based on a very popular comic strip character. The character “Bild” was a spirited, independent, modern girl, who knew what she wanted, and didn’t care who she used to get her way. The doll was sold mainly to adults in Germany, but children began to play with them. They liked dressing them up with all the different outfits and accessories. Mrs. Handler was right to think there was a gap that needed to be filled.

3 Barbies are sold every second!

Ruth Handler bought three of the dolls and brought them back to the US. She gave one to her daughter and took the rest to Mattel. With some help, Mrs. Handler reworked the German design and gave her a new name, “Barbie,” named after her daughter “Barbara.” Barbie made her debut in March 9, 1959 at the American International Toy Fair, and the world fell in love with her! After acquiring the rights to the German doll “Bild…” Mattel started mass producing the Barbie. It was first manufactured in Japan, and the clothes were handmade by Japanese homeworkers. In the first year Mattel sold over 350, 000 dolls. Today Mattel sells clothes and all kinds of accessories for Barbie, and according to Mattel they sell 3 Barbies every second!

Controversial Barbie….

Throughout the years Barbie has undergone some tweaking due to some controversies such as the doll being for some too sexy, skinny (anorexic), unrealistic looking Black Barbies (doll dark, but White features), a talking doll who hated math, a tattooed Barbie, and on and on. But Barbie is still here after all these years. She may conform to the times, but she sticks around, and continues to be a toy little girls enjoy. Hey and she doesn’t age either!

All it took was a mom with some business savvy, and an idea to birth a cultural icon, which has made for some fun times and a boredom filler for many children for years to come. Who would’ve guessed?



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One Comments to “Birth of a Doll: History of Barbie”

  1. Good article. Nice one.

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