Barbie's early history
"Barbie" is a registered trademark of Mattel, Inc.; "Fashion Royalty" and "Candi" are registered trademarks of Integrity Toys, Inc.
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|The history of dolls
began as early as the 14th century and dolls had been the
ambassadors of the
current fashion styles during these times. First dolls were made from wood, then porcelain and later
from leather. It was not before the 19th century that dolls also became toys, and particularely the
vintage dolls from ancient times are popular collector items for centuries.
Mattel, Inc. has been founded by the American businesswoman Ruth Handler (1916-2002),
her husband Elliott Handler and Harold Matson. The small enterprise is credited with the creation
of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration. Ruth Handler watched her daughter
Barbara at play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles.
At the time, most children's toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a
gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot,
a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel's directors.
During a trip to Europe in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler came across
German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured Lilli doll was exactly what Handler had in mind,
so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel.
The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin
for the newspaper Die Bild-Zeitung. Lilli was a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not
above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955.
Upon her return to the U.S., Handler reworked the design of the doll (with help from engineer Jack Ryan)
and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler's daughter Barbara.
The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either a blonde or brunette.
Each doll came in a box containing a stand, swimsuit, shoes, earrings, sunglasses and least a booklet illustrating all the available latest fashions.
The doll was marketed as a "Teen-age Fashion Model," with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production.
doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New
York on March 9. 1959. This date is also used as Barbie's
Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964 and production of Lilli was stopped.
Barbie's appearance has been changed many times, most notably in 1971 when the doll's eyes were adjusted to look forwards rather than having the demure sideways glance of the original model.
Barbie in particular represents a much demanded collectors object. Barbie and all her accessories are in 1:6th scale and manufactured to a highly detailed perfection and quality.
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