On this day in 1959, the first Barbie doll goes on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Eleven inches tall, with a waterfall of blond hair, Barbie was the first mass-produced toy doll in the United States with adult features.
The woman behind Barbie was Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel, Inc. with her husband in 1945. After seeing her young daughter ignore her baby dolls to play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women, Handler realized there was an important niche in the market for a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future.
Barbie’s appearance was modeled on a doll named Lilli, based on a German comic strip character. Originally marketed as a racy gag gift to adult men in tobacco shops, the Lilli doll later became extremely popular with children.
Mattel bought the rights to Lilli and made its own version, which Handler named after her daughter, Barbara. READ FULL STORY