58 years ago today, Barbara Millicent Roberts made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Also known as Barbie, she stood 11 inches tall, sported blond hair and wore a black and white swimsuit, complete with accessories like sunglasses, high-heeled shoes, and hoop earrings.
Ruth Handler, cofounder of Mattel, created Barbie after seeing her young daughter ignore her baby dolls and play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women. Handler named her new doll after her daughter, and it became the first doll in the US with an adult body.
Barbie debuted at an opportune time - the 1950s saw the post-war boom and the rise of the suburban middle class. Children were becoming a new group of citizens called “teenagers,” and television was taking off as an advertising medium. In 1955, Mattel became the first company to air commercial sports to children with its sponsorship of the “Mickey Mouse Club.” Mattel used its sponsorship to introduce Barbie to America.