Facts about Barbie

Barbie is 58 years old
Born: March 9, 1959
Best known as: That skinny blonde doll created by Mattel in 1959

     

Barbie Biography

The Barbie doll was created by Ruth Handler for her Mattel company in 1959.

Ruth Handler and her husband, Elliot, founded Mattel with partner Harold “Matt” Matson in 1942. Ruth Handler created Barbie — an adult doll for children to play with — after being inspired by dolls she’d seen on a trip to Europe, and watching her own daughter, Barbara. Twelve inches high and plastic, the new Barbie and her fashionable and separately-sold clothing were such a hit that Mattel became a publicly-owned company in 1960.

New versions of the toy mirrored fashion trends over the years, and Barbie was the center of a universe that included a benign boyfriend (Ken), occasional siblings (Skipper, Todd, Stacie, et al), pets (too many to name, including dogs, horses, cats and a parrot), cars, boats, planes and houses. Special versions of Barbie included scientists, disco dancers, fashion models, astronauts, rock stars and lifeguards. By the 1980s, Barbie’s force as a collectible was such that Mattel began making versions of Barbie specifically for the collectors’ market.

Critics of the doll say it presents an unrealistic body image for girls, pointing to Barbie’s large bosom, slim waist, long legs, white skin and blonde tresses. Fans say Barbie encourages young girls — and boys — by giving them aspirations to be scientists, disco dancers, fashion models, astronauts, rock stars or lifeguards. Amidst the ongoing debate over Barbie’s impact on American culture, the doll remains one of the best-known and best-selling dolls on the market.

Extra credit

The Ken doll was named after Ruth and Elliot Handler’s other child: a son, Ken… Ruth Handler was born on November 4, 1916 in Denver, Colorado. She was president of Mattel until 1973, and died on April 27, 2002… According to Mattel lore, Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts. A press release from 2009 said, in part, “Barbie doll — Barbie Millicent Roberts — was ‘born’ on March 9, 1959, in (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin.” March 9th of 1959 was the date that the doll was first introduced at the annual New York Toy Fair.


     

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