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It operated out of a garage
making wooden doll's house furniture and plastic picture frames.
The company became popular with such toys as Uke-A-Doodle and a
line of boys' toy guns.
Soon Harold Matson left Mattel and
Elliot's wife, Ruth Handler, joined the business. In 1955, while
the family were on vacation in Germany, they found a doll based
on a German Newspaper comic heroine. The doll was Lilli,
manufactured by the German Newspaper, Bild. The doll had white
irises, a pony tail and permanently arched feet, but unlike the
popular baby dolls of the time, the doll had a "man's
ideal" figure of a woman.
Here, the story is a bit vague, with
different sources claiming a different story, but what is certain
is that the Number 1 Barbie looks uncannily like
However, Mattel's 'Barbie,' named after Barbara Handler, Ruth and
Elliot's daughter, was of a much higher quality.
Charlotte Johnston, one of the favourite designers of the 11 1/2 inch wardrobe, was in Japan organising Barbie's clothes
while Elliot Handler was meeting with factories organising
Barbie's body! By 1958 Barbie Teen-Age Fashion Model Doll was
copyrighted and ready to be unveiled at the Toy Fair in the
spring in New York City.
Many people criticized the doll; some
even labelled her a 'tart' - but Mattel continued and launched one
of the cleverest and slyest advertising campaigns of all time. It
was aimed directly at children through The Mickey Mouse
Club Television show. The campaign worked and Barbie
became a hit where it mattered, with the customer!
The Barbie Doll went through many changes during her first five years of
production as Mattel corrected apparent problems. Mattel
continued and today still continues to make revisions to the doll
which is one reason why the Barbie doll has always been the most
popular doll in the world.