Barbie History

Believe it or not, Barbie originally was a real person. Her name was Barbara (Barbie) Handler and her mother and father were Ruth and Elliot. In the early 1950's, Barbie's mother watched her and her girlfriends play with adult female dolls more than they did the baby dolls.

Her mother knew it was just as important for young girls to imagine what it would be like to be grown up. Since most of the adult dolls available at that time were paper or cardboard, Barbie's mother decided to make a three-dimensional female adult doll. One that was lifelike enough to serve as an inspiration for little girl's dreams of the future. She took her ideas to the ad executives at the Mattel Corp., the company that she and Barbie's father had founded in the garage many years prior.

The all male committee rejected the idea saying it would be too expensive and with little market appeal to the mass. She had gone on a trip to Europe and returned with a Lillie doll, modeled after a character in a German comic strip. She then spent lots of time designing a doll (Barbie) to resemble Lillie and even hired a clothing designer to make realistic clothes. The result was the Barbie Doll. Mattel finally agreed to back her efforts and Barbie debuted at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959.

Girls went wild over her and set a new sales record for Mattel the very first year at 351,000 sold at $3.00 each. Since then the Barbie Doll's popularity has rarely waivered and today, with over one billion of her lookalikes sold, the product line is one of the most successful in the history of the toy industry. As you can see, Barbie was blonde with a pony tail, zebra-striped swimsuit, open toed shoes, sunglasses and earrings. Barbie had lots of accessories available.

The silly buyers at the industry's annual Toy Fair in New York were not impressed but the little girls sure were! That's all it took to take the retailers by storm! Mattel was so swamped with orders that it took several years for supply to catch up with demand! And now you know the rest of the Barbie History.


1959 Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler introduces Barbie at New York City's Toy Fair. The doll is 11 1/2 inches tall and features a movable head, arms and legs. "Barbie #1" is known for her sly sideways glance and her black-and-white striped swimsuit. Fashions from Barbie's first year include the "Wedding Day Dress" and the Dixie-themed "Plantation Belle." In the first collection, blondes outnumber brunettes by two to one.

1960 Ken makes the scene, sporting a head of fuzzy hair. Two years later, his hair is replaced with blond or brown paint.

1964 Barbie's little sister Skipper is introduced. She is joined by Miss Barbie, the only doll in the collection whose eyes open and shut.

1965 Barbie gets bendable legs. This is convenient, since this is also the year that Barbie suits up as Miss Astronaut. Barbie was always ahead of her time since this was years before women are actually accepted into the space program.

1968 Barbie's girlfriend Christie, an African-American doll, is introduced in 1968. Barbie also speaks for the first time this year. At the pull of a string, she utters six phrases, including "I have a date tonight!" and "I love being a fashion model!" Ken disappears for the entire year of 1968. He returns in 1969 with bigger muscles, bendable knees, and a speaking voice.

1970 With the introduction of speaking Barbie, it is now possible to bend the doll's elbows, knees, and ankles. Barbie's head, waist, arms, hands, and legs all swivel.

1971 Barbie's trademark sideways glance is replaced by an attentive, straight-ahead look. Barbie becomes a hippie, just as the peace and love thing is sweeping the nation.

1976 Barbie proves that it is possible to have it all. She becomes an Olympic skier, a gymnast, skater, doctor, surgical nurse, ballerina and a flight attendant. Barbie is selected as the "doll of the century" for the U.S. bicentennial celebration. She is placed in a time capsule, scheduled to be opened in 2076.

1980 Mattel takes steps to desegregate with all deliberate speed, introducing Black Barbie and Hispanic Barbie. "Oriental" Barbie follows the next year. The company also launches its ongoing International Collection, beginning with Italian Barbie, Parisian Barbie, and Royal U.K. Barbie.

1981 Mattel embraces cowboy chic with Western Barbie.

1985 An international Barbie exhibition showcases Barbie in clothes designed by Yves St. Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Christian Dior.

1987 Barbie's line of Concert Tour fashions, inspired by Madonna, include a Day-Glo bustier and skintight black pants.

1990 Barbie has a short-lived music career, singing with her group, Barbie and the Beats.

1989 Barbie joins the U.S. Army in 1989. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fashions follow over the next three years.

1993 Mattel's introduction of Native American Barbie.

1994 Teen Talk Barbie speaks the phrase "Math is hard!" The doll becomes the flashpoint in a national discussion on girls and education.

1997 Harley-Davidson Barbie becomes the hottest doll of the year, to the amazement of marketing experts.

1999 Barbie celebrates her 40th birthday. Mattel celebrates the event by forming a partnership with the nonprofit Girls Inc. The project, called "Ambassadors of Dreams," uses accomplished women to advance the message that "girls can be anything." Mattel donates $1.5 million dollars to support programs that teach girls about technology, finance, math and science, career planning, and sports.
The same year, Mattel releases a new line of Generation Girls, including Butterfly Art Barbie, named for the butterfly tattoo on her stomach, with one of Barbie's new girlfriends having a nose ring.

2000 Backed by Girls Inc., Barbie runs for President. Her campaign issues include equality, world peace, animal kindness, education, and the environment. Meanwhile, Mattel prepares to introduce Fashion Doll 2000. The Most Collectible Doll In The World introduced several Millennium-themed dolls including Barbie® 2000, Millennium Wedding™, and Sydney 2000™ Olympic Pin Collector.
In response to feedback from collectors, Mattel reduces production quantities for collectible Barbie dolls. Limited Edition dolls are now produced in quantities of 35,000 or less. These dolls continue to be sold in specialty/boutique stores. The Barbie® Fashion Model Collection debuts this year to rave reviews. Designed by Barbie Collectibles designer Robert Best, this stunning collection features a new body material known as Silkstone™, the vintage face sculpt with updated make-up, and glamorous high quality fashions. Also new this year is The Hollywood Movie Star™ Collection featuring Barbie doll as a glamorous movie star dressed in stunning fashions that recall the Golden Age of Hollywood.

2001 Barbie stars in her first feature film, Barbie In The Nutcracker™. It airs on CBS Thanksgiving day, and quickly becomes one of the highest grossing children's videos/DVDs in history. Ken® celebrates his 40th anniversary in style. Handsomely dressed in a dashing tuxedo with a black and white striped bow tie and cummerbund. Also the Dolls of the World® - The Princess Collection debuts, featuring Barbie as a beautiful princess from a foreign land. Dressed in fine fabrics with historically referenced detail.

2002 Barbie becomes more popular with Hollywood such as, the Marilyn Monroe set, Rhett Butler and Elvis along with Pop Culture and Fantasy dolls such as Enchanted Mermaid.

2003 Barbie is still one of the most popular dolls sold today. She has arrived in all shapes. Such as I Love Lucy in the Paris Gown, Sugar Plum Fairy and much more.

2004 Barbie is very popular with Lord of the Rings Gift Set, Wonder Woman, SuperGirl and more Dolls of the World series.

2004 NEWSFLASH!!! NEW YORK (Feb. 12, 2004) - Just like J.Lo and Ben, the romance is over for Barbie and Ken.
After 43 years as one of the world's prettiest pairs, the perfect plastic couple is breaking up. The couple's "business manager," Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, said that Barbie and Ken "feel it's time to spend some quality time - apart."
"Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end," said Arons, who quickly added that the duo "will remain friends."

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