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The History of Barbie Dolls

Ruth Handler invented the Barbie Doll in 1959.

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The first Barbie doll shown at New York Toy Fair in 1959.

The first Barbie doll shown at New York Toy Fair in 1959.

Courtesy of Barbie Media & Mattel
The Barbie doll was invented in 1959 by Ruth Handler (co-founder of Mattel), whose own daughter was called Barbara. Barbie was introduced to the world at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie's job was teenage fashion doll. The Ken doll was named after Ruth's son and was introduced two years after Barbie in 1961.

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The full name of the first doll was Barbie Millicent Roberts, from Willows, Wisconsin. Barbie's job was that of teenage fashion model. However, the doll has been made in versions connected to over 125 different careers.

She came as either a brunette or blond, and in 1961 red hair was added. In 1980, the first African American Barbie and Hispanic Barbie were introduced, however, Barbie did have a black friend named Christie who was introduced in 1969.

The first Barbie was sold for $3. Additional clothing based on the latest runway trends from Paris were sold, costing from $1 to $5. In the first year (1959), 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold. Today, a mint condition "#1" (1959 Barbie doll) can fetch as much as $27,450. To date, over 70 fashion designers have made clothes for Mattel, using over 105 million yards of fabric.

There has been some controversy over Barbie Doll's figure when it was realized that if Barbie was a real person her measurements would be an impossible 36-18-38. Barbie's "real" measurements are 5 inches (bust), 3 ¼ inches (waist), 5 3/16 inches (hips). Her weight is 7 ¼ ounces, and her height is 11.5 inches tall.

In 1965, Barbie first had bendable legs, and eyes that open and shut. In 1967, a Twist 'N Turn Barbie was released that had a moveable body that twisted at the waist.

The best-selling Barbie doll ever was 1992 Totally Hair Barbie, with hair from the top of her head to her toes.

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Continue > Biography of Ruth Handler

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