Mattel Inc manufactures the iconic Barbie doll. She first appeared on the world stage in 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler invented the Barbie doll. Ruth Handler's husband, Elliot Handler, was the co-founder of Mattel Inc, and Ruth herself later served as president.
Read on to discover how Ruth Handler came up with the idea for Barbie and the story behind Barbie's full name: Barbara Millicent Roberts.
Ruth Handler came up with the idea of Barbie after she realized that her daughter liked to play with paper dolls that resembled grown-ups. Handler suggested making a doll that looked like an adult rather than a child. She also wanted the doll to be three-dimensional so that it could actually wear fabric clothing rather than paper clothing that two-dimensional paper dolls sported.
The doll was named after Handler's daughter, Barbara Millicent Roberts. Barbie is a shortened version of Barbara's full name. Later, the Ken doll was added to the Barbie Collection. In a similar fashion, Ken was named after Ruth and Elliot's son, Kenneth.
Fictional Life Story
While Barbara Millicent Roberts was a real child, the doll named Barbara Millicent Roberts was given a fictional life story as told in a series of novels published in the 1960s. According to these stories, Barbie is a high school student from a fictional town in Wisconsin. Her parents' names are Margaret and George Roberts, and her off-and-on boyfriend's name is Ken Carson.
In the 1990s, a new life story for Barbie was published in which she lived and went to high school in Manhattan. Apparently, Barbie had a break with Ken in 2004 during which she met Blaine, an Australian surfer.
When Handler was conceptualizing Barbie, she used the Bild Lilli doll as inspiration. Bild Lilli was a German fashion doll invented by Max Weisbrodt and produced by Greiner & Hausser Gmbh. It was not intended to be a children's toy but rather a gag gift.
The doll was produced for nine years, from 1955 until it was acquired by Mattel Inc. in 1964. The doll was based on a cartoon character named Lilli who flaunted a stylish and extensive 1950s wardrobe.
The First Barbie Outfit
The Barbie doll was first seen at the 1959 American International Toy Fair in New York. The first edition of Barbie sported a zebra-striped swimsuit and a ponytail with either blonde or brunette hair. The clothes were designed by Charlotte Johnson and hand-stitched in Japan.