Artifact and Analysis

Barbie Doll, 1958


The original feature of Barbie was that she was an adult; until she arrived on the scene most American dolls portrayed children or infants. Ruth and Elliott Handler, the founders of Barbie's maker, Mattel Inc., based the first Barbie on a German doll named Lilli, who was intended for adults.

Extensive market research preceding Barbie's commercial release in the late 1950s revealed that parents objected vehemently to Barbie's coquettish appearance, while children could not have responded more favorably. Barbie, her accessories, and her play sets have been marketed extensively on television since the 1950s.