Barbie is the most famous doll in the world. Ruth Handler was a Denver born businesswoman in 1959 who began the Barbie enterprise. At the time, paper dolls were very popular among American girls. While in Germany, Handler ran into a 3D molded doll. It inspired her to start her own version of dolls back home in the U.S. She named her doll collection after her daughter, Barbara.
Barbie’s forever boyfriend, Ken, was named after Handler’s son, Kenneth. The Barbie dolls shot Mattel to international prominence. Incidentally, Mattel was originally a picture framing company started by Handler’s husband. Ruth went on to be in charge of the company entirely and died in 2002.
Her daughter, Barbara, is still very involved in the company. She even told her story on Oprah. At the taping, she presented Oprah with a one of the kind “Oprah” Barbie doll.