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Monday, February 2, 2009

Was the “First” Barbie doll, really the “First” Barbie?

Every Barbie fan/collector already knows that the first Barbie was born on March 9, 1959, in New York, by Ruth Handler. But, have you heard about the Lilli doll from Germany? It’s interesting that she looks a lot like the first Barbie! Not so surprisingly, Lilli’s production lasted only 5 years after Barbie was created, into which time Mattel had acquired the rights of the Lilli doll from O&M Hausser, a German Company. It was actually Mattel that ceased its production.
At this time, Mrs. Handler’s kids (Barbara, Skipper and Kenneth) played with the Lilli doll. The legend is said to have begun during a trip to Germany in 1956 with her children; Ruth discovered a German doll called Bild Lilli in a shop window. The adult-figured Lilli doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel.
The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper “Die Bild-Zeitun.” Lilli was not exactly the aspiring woman that parent’s wished upon their children to look up to…
Lilli had no reservations about talking illicitly…
Lilli: (talking to a policeman who told her that two-piece-swimsuits are banned: "Which piece do you want me to take off?")
…of politics: ("Of course I'm interested in politics; no one should ignore the way some politicians dress!")
And even the beauty of nature…
("The sunrise is so beautiful that I always stay late at the nightclub to see it!").
The last Lilli cartoon appeared on January 5, 1961.
At the end of the 50s, Barbie was born, only this doll was more “girly” than Lilli, and geared toward kids.
Lilli was so famous that she was exported to other countries, such as the United States. I can definitely say Ruth Hundler created Barbie, the name, the logo, but how about the idea, the doll, the toy? Didn’t she exist before?
Honestly, that’s the question that I carry with me. Of course not as a demeaning question, because thanks to Ruth, she not only saw the potential, but also had the money and influence to turn a spark into a blazing fire. But, unfortunately, there is no doubt the question will always be there… The good thing is that Barbie (or Lilly?) is still around… Only in a modern, beautiful, and empowering style.

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