Plastic dolls first appeared in the late 1940s. The most popular dolls in the second half of the 20th century have been teenage fashion dolls: Bild Lilli from Germany appeared in 1958, Barbie in America in 1959 and Sindy in England in 1962.
The German Lilli doll, on which Barbie was based, was itself based on a cartoon character in the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung. She was created by Reinhard Beuthien to make a “filler” to conceal a blank space.
In 1958, Ruth and Elliot Handler, the founders of Mattel Inc, bought the rights to the German Lilli doll. They changed the hair colour from blonde to brunette and named her Barbie after their daughter, Barbara (They later named Ken after their son). The original Barbie was dressed in a black and white striped swimsuit. A “Wedding Day Dress” and a “Plantation Belle” outfit were released during the first year.
By 1961, Barbie was the best selling doll of all time. During that year, Barbie’s boyfriend doll, Ken , was released. Ken was followed by Midge, Barbie’s best friend, in 1963 and Skipper, Barbie’s sister, in 1964. Barbie first acquired the ability to talk in 1968.
Over 500,000,000 Barbies have been sold – more than a billion dolls including her companion dolls, such as Ken and Skipper. Over 90% of American girls over the last forty years have owned at least one Barbie. Mattel’s designers provide Barbie with about 100 new outfits a year – making Mattel America’s fourth largest clothing manufacturer of women’s clothing.
G I Joe, Action Man and Tommy Gunn
In 1961, Stanley Weston created G I Joe, a doll for boys based on a television series call The Lieutenant. To the surprise of many, G I Joe was a success – a female version introduced years later was a flop. The British company, Palitoy, purchased a licence from Hasbro, the manufacturer of G I Joe, and began producing their British version, Action Man, in 1964. At the same time, Pedigree Toys, manufacturer of Sindy, the British rival of Barbie, released its Tommy Gunn doll. Palitoy was able to import a great many accessories for Action Man from Hasbro and soon outsold its Pedigree Toys rival. But this has meant that Tommy Gunn dolls are now relatively rare and highly valued by collectors.