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All dolled up with Barbie

The Story

To a little girl accustomed to baby dolls, Barbie was a revelation. Here was a doll with a stylish wardrobe and a grown-up figure to match. Modeled on Lilli, a German doll who began life as a stag party gag gift, Barbie debuted at an American toy fair on March 9, 1959. Sales took off like a rocket, and toy company Mattel sold 350,000 Barbies in the first year. In this CBC-TV clip marking the doll's 25th anniversary in 1984, Take 30 host Harry Brown asks a 10-year-old collector what draws her to Barbie.

Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Feb. 27, 1984
Guests: Sheila Hamilton, Dayna Horgan
Host: Harry Brown
Duration: 5:07

Did You know?

• Some time in the mid-1950s, Ruth Handler observed her daughter dressing paper dolls and suggested that her husband's toy company, Mattel, would have success making a three-dimensional doll with adult proportions. He declined. • On a trip to Germany Handler spied Lilli - who had by then caught on with German children - and bought three. With Mattel on side now, she modelled a new doll on Lilli and named her Barbie after her own daughter.

• With her black-and-white swimsuit, swingy ponytail and coy sidelong glance, Barbie (full name: Barbie Millicent Rogers) was an instant hit after being unveiled to the public at the International Toy and Trade Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. March 9 has been Barbie's "birthday" ever since.

• Mattel has since added numerous other dolls, including boyfriend Ken, to the Barbie product line. Countless editions of Barbie have been issued over the years, including Canadian Barbie in 1988. She wears the red serge uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.



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