Barbie Doll History: 1959–1972
Oh, You Beautiful Doll!
In the mid 1950s, Ruth Handler, wife of Mattel executive Elliot Handler, saw her pre-teen daughter playing with paper dolls. But Ruth’s daughter, instead of playing “house” with her baby dolls, put them in “adult situations” such as going on dates and the like. Up until then, only baby dolls were marketed for young children; there weren’t any “teenage” dolls. Ruth wanted to produce a teenage doll, but Mattel, a small, new company at the time, did not think it would sell.
When traveling in Germany in 1956, Ruth found an “adult” novelty doll called Bild Lilli that would later serve as the model for a teenage doll. Bild Lilli was redesigned into Barbie, named after Ruth and Elliot Handler’s daughter, Barbara. The first Barbie Doll was introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. At first, it wasn’t well received but soon the teenage fashion model became a big hit.
Barbie Doll (stock #850), called “Ponytail” because of her hairstyle, was 11 ½ inches tall with blonde or brunette hair. She had copper tubing in her feet that fit onto a round, plastic stand. Priced at $3.00 in 1959, Barbie wore a black and white zebra-striped swimsuit, gold-hoop earrings, white sunglasses with blue lenses and a pair of black open-toed shoes. The Number One Ponytail Barbie has sharp, “v-shaped” painted eyebrows, bright red lips and nails, curly bangs and a curl at the end of her ponytail. Her hand-painted black eyes have white irises and thick black eyeliner. This doll is a rare, valuable and expensive find to collectors.
The Number Two Ponytail Barbie, also released in 1959, looked identical to the “number one” except the copper tubing had been removed. But the Number Three Ponytail, released in 1960, had blue eyes, brown or black eyeliner on the upper lids and rounded eyebrows. Some dolls had braided ponytails and pearl stud earrings. The numbers one, two and three ponytail models were made of heavy plastic which faded to a pale ivory color as they aged.
Number Four Ponytail Barbie (1960) was made of a different type of vinyl which allowed the Teenaged Fashion Model to retain her tanned flesh color. In 1961, Number Five Ponytail Barbie came out with a lighter body and hair colors of blonde, brunette and red, which Mattel called “titian.” The texture of her hair as well as the style would also vary from ponytail to a bun. Number Six Ponytail Barbie (1961) had a slightly more rounded face and a variety of lip and nail colors.
“Bubblecut” Barbie and Fashion Queen
In 1961, along with manufacturing the Ponytail models, Mattel introduced Barbie with a short, bouffant hairdo called the “bubblecut” (stock #850). The doll (with the same stock number as the Ponytails) was sold wearing a red or blue jersey-type swimsuit with pearl earrings. A popular seller, “Bubblecut” Barbie, in a variety of hair, lip and nail colors, was manufactured until 1966.
Fashion Queen (stock #870) was introduced in 1963; this Barbie doll had plastic, molded hair and three hairpieces that came on a plastic wig-stand. The wigs – a red flip, a blond bubble and a brunette pageboy – gave Barbie a variety of fashion styles. As Fashion Queen Barbie grew popular with little girls, more accessories became available.
Ken, Midge, Skipper and the Twins
Mattel’s research showed that little girls wanted Barbie to have a boyfriend, thus the Ken Doll was introduced in 1961. Ken – named for Ruth and Elliot Handler’s son, Ken– was 12 inches tall with flocked, fuzzy brown or blond hair that was cut short. Later versions of Ken (stock #750) had painted hair because the fuzzy, flocked materials dissolved in water. The original Ken Doll was dressed in a red bathing suit, a red and white striped beach jacket and corked sandals.
Midge Doll (stock #860) came into Barbie’s world in 1963. With blonde, red or brown hair, Midge was Barbie’s best friend and joined her on a series of adventures. Midge had freckles – although some were made without them – a variety of lip and nail colors and some dolls even had painted teeth. As with Barbie and Ken, Midge underwent several changes during her production years. Midge would later have a boyfriend of her own; Allan Doll was released in 1964.
Mattel released Skipper Doll, Barbie’s little sister, in 1963. Skipper (stock #1050) was 9 inches tall and came with blonde, brunette or red hair. She wore a one-piece sailor swimsuit with red shoes. Skipper’s friends, Skooter (stock #1040) and Ricky (stock #1090) came along in 1965.
Mattel expanded the Barbie family in 1966 with the addition of Tutti and Todd. Tutti (stock #3350), with a completely rubber body that could be posed in many positions, was 6 ¼ inches tall; her brother Todd (stock #3590) was the same type and size.
Swirl Ponytail & Miss Barbie
The 1964 model of Ponytail Barbie had hair that swept back from her forehead. Also known as a “Swirl Ponytail,” Barbie’s hair came in a range of colors including platinum blonde, white ginger, titian, brunette and a variety of shades in between. Lips and nails colors varied, too … reds, oranges, pinks, lavenders, tans and corals. Swirl Ponytail (stock #0850) was sold in her original red jersey swimsuit.
Miss Barbie (stock #1060) was a sleep-eyed doll with bendable legs and a molded, plastic hairstyle. Dressed in a pink swimsuit and orange plastic headband, Miss Barbie Doll had a swim cap, three wigs and a pair of open-toed shoes. The doll’s eyes closed when she was laid flat.
American Girl Barbie & Color Magic
In 1965, Barbie got a new look; a “Dutch boy” hairstyle and bendable legs but no earrings. American Girl Barbie had many hair colors in shades of blonde, red, brown and brunette. She also had a large variety of lipstick colors; many of them in shades of reds, pinks, oranges and corals. Over time, some of these lip colors faded to a butter-yellow color. American Girl Barbie dolls (stock #1070) were sold in swimsuits that had striped bodices and aqua-turquoise jersey bottoms. Mattel also released American Girl Midge dolls with bendable legs (stock #1080).
Color Magic Barbie dolls came out in 1966. Color Magic (stock #1150) had the same bodies as American Girls and came in two models; “Golden Blonde” whose hair changed to “Scarlet Flame,” and the other, “Midnight,” whose hair changed to “Ruby Red.” The dolls came with a “magic” solution that, when applied, changed their hair and swimsuit colors.
Welcome Mod, Mod Francie!
Barbie’s “modern” cousin Francie was introduced in 1966. The doll, 11 ¾ inches tall with a slimmer, rather “boyish” figure, could wear the “mod” styles of the late 1960s. Francie’s blond or brown hair was straight with a bottom flip and her wardrobe, in addition to more traditional styles, consisted of bell-bottom outfits and psychedelic colors. The doll had real eyelashes and came in a straight-legged version (stock #1140) and one with bendable legs (stock #1130).
Mod Era Barbie
It was the Swinging Sixties and Barbie was in the thick of it all. The “Mod” era, from 1967 to 1972, saw Barbie and friends in flexible body poses, sharp clothes, new hairstyles and updated makeup. The new Standard Barbie (stock #1190) had straight legs. The Twist ‘n Turn version (stock #1160) could bend her legs and twist her waist. Barbie had long straight hair in colors of “Go Go Coco,” “Chocolate Bon Bon,” “Summer Sand” and “Sun Kissed.” Barbie and her friends wore shimmering and brightly colored clothes; full-sleeved blouses, mini-skirts, go-go boots, bell-bottom pants and a host of accessories.
Casey (stock #1180), had short, bobbed hair in brunette or blonde. The first “celebrity” doll was the blonde-haired Twiggy (stock #1185), “London’s Top Teen Model.” Both Casey and Twiggy had Francie-like bodies and were released in 1967.
Tutti got new friends in 1967; Chris (stock #3570) and Carla. Chris had either blonde or brunette hair; Carla was available only in Europe.
In 1968, another “celebrity” doll was produced as a friend to Tutti and Todd. Buffy was based on a character from television’s Family Affair. Just like the character, Buffy had blond pigtails and carried her own doll; Mrs. Beasley.
In 1968, a talking Barbie doll was released; children would pull the string in the doll’s back and hear it say a variety of phrases. Later that year, Mattel introduced Stacey (stock #1125) and Christie (stock #1126). The first Stacey had long straight (red or blonde) hair pulled to the side (later Stacey dolls had short hair in a flip); the doll spoke with a British accent. Christie was African-American; she had a puffy, short, bouffant-like hairstyle. These dolls, in addition to Francie and Skipper were also released in Twist ‘n Turn versions.
Along with different bodies and talking versions of Ken, Midge, Francie, Skipper, Stacey and Christie, Mattel released an assortment of new dolls in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In 1969, Julia (stock #1127), based on the television show starring Diahann Carroll, hit the toy stores. Julia was sold in her nurse’s outfit with separate ensembles available. Also in 1969; Truly Scrumptious (stock #1107/1108) was based on the lead character from the film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Barbie’s cousin, New n’ Groovy PJ (stock #1113) had long, straight blond hair in two pigtails.
Barbie herself had a few new hairstyles, including a long side ponytail or a shoulder-length flip hairdo with spit curl bangs, both in blonde and brunette. Francie also had a new hairstyle; short and wavy.
In 1969, Mattel introduced the Dramatic New Living Barbie (stock #1116); the doll could bend her arms, wrists, ankles and head, as well as her waist and legs. Living Barbie and Living Skipper (stock #1115) could be posed in a variety of ways. In 1970, Walking Jamie (stock #1132) arrived; a button on her back made her legs, arms and head move as if she were walking. Also in 1970; Talking and Bendable Leg Brad (an African-American doll created as a boyfriend for Christie; stock #1114/1142), Lori (& her teddy bear Rori, stock #1133), Angie (& her rag doll Tangie, stock #1135) and Nan (& her doll Fran, stock #1134). These were new friends for Tutti.
Malibu, Walk Lively and Busy Barbie Series
The Malibu Barbie line came into the Mattel sun in 1971. Malibu Barbie (stock #1067), Malibu Francie (stock #1068), Malibu Skipper (stock #1069) and Malibu Ken (stock #1088) had “suntanned” skin and straight blonde hair. Malibu PJ (stock #1187) and Malibu Christie (stock #7745) came out in 1973.
More “walking” dolls, much like Walking Jamie, came out in 1972; Walk Lively Barbie (stock #1182), Walk Lively Steffie (stock #1183), Walk Lively Ken (stock #1184) and Walk Lively Miss America (stock #3200). Busy Barbie (stock #3311), Busy Steffie (stock #2212), Busy Francie (stock #3313) and Busy Ken (stock #3314) had bendable arms, wrists, legs and flexible hands that allow them to hold various accessories. The other two dolls from 1972 were Pose n’ Play Skipper (stock #1179) and her friend, Pose n’ Play Tiff (stock #1199).
Barbie, Barbie, Barbie!
Since the beginning, Barbie has evolved in hundreds of ways, from to fashions and play toys to “collectible” box dolls. Barbie is in movies, theatrical plays, computer games and so much more --- the marketing of this children’s (and adults’) plaything is endless. From 1959 to today, Barbie spans generations and IS our beautiful doll.
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© 2011 Teri Silver