Watching her daughter Barbara, and her friends, playing with paper dolls, Ruth Handler noticed that theyÂ enjoyed giving them adult roles. Almost all theÂ toy dolls at that time were representations of babies.Â Ruth Handler suggested the idea of a doll that looked more like an adult to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the MattelÂ toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel's directors
During a trip to Europe in 1956, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lille.Â The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip.Â The adult-figured 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.
Upon her return to the United States, Handler reworked the design of the doll with helpÂ from engineer Jack Ryan, and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler's daughter. The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9 , 1959. This date is also used as Barbie's official birthday.