Archive for March 10th, 2009


The Bild Lilli Doll

The Bild Lilli Doll


Barbie is a fashion doll and American icon who turned 50 this month, but her heritage is German. You could even say Barbie’s mother was German.

In the beginning Lilli was a German cartoon character, created by Reinhard Beuthien for the tabloid Bild-Zeitung in Hamburg, Germany to fill space in the paper. In 1953 the Bild-Zeitung decided to market a Lilli doll and contacted Max Weissbrodt from the toy company O&M Hausser in Neustadt/Coburg, Germany. Following Beuthien’s drawings Weissbrodt designed the prototype of the doll which was on sale from 1955 to 1964.

Ruth Handler’s husband, Elliott Handler, and his business partner, Harold “Matt” Matson, had formed a small company to manufacture picture frames, calling it “Mattel” by combining part of their names (“Matt” and “Elliot”). Ruth was on vacation in Europe, where she saw the “Bild Lilli” on sale in a Swiss store. She had wanted just such a doll for her daughter Babara, and bought three of them. Barbara got one, and the others went back to Mattel. The rest, as they say, is history. 

As a cartoon character, Lilly had attitude and was popular with adults. In one cartoon, a policeman told her that the two-piece swimsuit she was wearing was illegal, to which she replied “What piece should I remove?” Can you imagine Barbie saying that?


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