Saturday, March 9, 2013
On March 9, 1959, Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll was introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York. This date is also used as the doll’s official birthday in its “biography,” which claims that her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts and her favorite color is pink. The fashion-model plastic doll was the creation of Ruth Handler, wife of the co-founder of the Mattel toy company, who noticed that her pre-teen daughter preferred to give adult roles to her paper dolls. Sensing a market niche and seeking an idea for an adult-bodied doll, she encountered a blonde-bombshell doll named Bild Lilli (a gag gift for adults, based on a comic strip) on a trip to Germany in 1956. She reworked the design but retained distinct breasts, and named it after her daughter, Barbara. The first Barbie, with averted eyes and topknot ponytail, cost $3.00 and wore a black and white zebra-striped swimsuit hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers.