Ruth Marianna Handler (Nov-04-1916 – Apr-27-2002)

   Ruth Marianna Handler – Mosko 

November 4, 1916 April 27, 2002



1916. Ruth Handler was born on November 4, 1916 in Denver, Colorado, USA as Ruth Marianna Mosko. She was the youngest of 10 children of Polish immigrants who settled in Denver. Her father was a blacksmith who deserted the Russian army. Her mother was illiterate when she arrived in the United States in the steerage section of the steamship. Her mother’s health was so frail that Mrs.Handler was reared by an older sister. Ruth was 19 when she left Denver for a vacation in Hollywood and wound up staying. Her high school sweetheart, Elliot Handler, followed her west and married her in 1938.

She was an businesswoman, the president of the toy manufacturer  Mattel,Inc. and is remembered primarily for her role in marketing the Barbie doll.

  • Mattel began in 1945. Her husband, Elliott Handler, and her business partner, Harold “Matt” Matson, formed a small company to manufacture picture frames, calling it “Mattel” by combining their names (“Matt” + “El”liot). Later, they began using scraps from the manufacturing process to make dollhouse furniture. The furniture was more profitable than the picture frames and it was decided to concentrate on toy manufacturing. The company’s first big-seller was the “Uka-a-doodle”, a toy ukulele.


  • In 1948, the Mattel Corporation was formally incorporated in California.


  • 1950

Barbara&Ken1950 Handler_Dude-Ranch


  • In 1955, Mattel changed toy marketing forever, by acquiring the rights to produce the popular “Mickey Mouse Club” products. The cross-marketing promotion became common practise for future toy companies.
Mattel Mickey Mouse/ Mousegetar.

Mattel Mickey Mouse/ Mousegetar.


  • 1956 – 1959 Barbie Doll. Ruth Handler had noted that her daughter Barbara preferred playing with paper dolls that looked like adults rather than like children. She wanted to produce a plastic doll with an adult body but her husband and Mr Matson thought it wouldn’t sell. But when the Handlers were on an European trip, Ruth Handler saw the German Bild Lilli doll (which was not meant for children at all; rather a gag gift for adults) in a Swiss shop and bought it. Ruth Handler says that when she bought “Bild Lilli” she was ignorant of its adult nature. Back home she reworked the design of the doll and re-named her Barbie, who debuted at the New York toy fair on March 9, 1959.
 Bild Lilli doll

Bild Lilli doll

N01 #850 Barbie Doll.

N01 #850 Barbie Doll.

1959 #1  Barbie™  and first advertisement 


  • 1959


  • 1959.  Mattel continued to diversify its toy line, which grew to include (1959 to 1965) Chatty Cathy.

Rare Mattel Archive Publicity Photos


  • Feb. 7, 1959 – Elliot and Ruth Handler, co-founders of Mattel, assembled a two-stage plastic rocket and #1 Barbie in this photograph from The New York Times.


  • 1960 Barbie became a big seller, and Ken was introduced as her boyfriend in 1960. Named for the Handlers’ son, Kenneth Handler.

1961 Barbie & Ken Story and First Ken Doll

1961 Magazine


  • 1961 Ruth Handler, executive of Mattel Toy company, posing with collection of Barbie dolls.
  • New Toys for 1961


  • New Toys for 1962…


  • A 1963 TV commercial for Mattel’s Beany and Cecil dolls in non-talking and talking versions. Features voice over narration by Frank Nelson.


  • 1962. Mattel Cat in the Hat Talking Toy, 1962


  • 1962 Barbie Song



  • In a 1967 file photo, Elliot and Ruth Handler, middle; daughter Barbara, right; son Ken; and granddaughter Cheryl. Credit Los Angeles Times/MCT



  • 1967. Ruth Handler became president of Mattel in 1967. She had a mastectomy in the 1970s, and irregularities in reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission led to her resignation at Mattel.


  • 1969. Mattel ‘Hot Wheels’ Sihloutte Car and track, 1969


  • 1970. Ruth Handler was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970. She had a modified radical mastectomy, which was often used at the time to combat the disease, and because of difficulties in finding a good breast prosthesis, she decided to make her own. Handler went on to found a company, Ruthton Corp., formed by her and Peyton Massey, which manufactured a more realistic version of a woman’s breast, called “Nearly Me”.

1970 Handler_with-prostheticLNM-Enhancers


  • 1971. Beautifully engraved certificate from the Mattel. Inc. Toy Company issued in 1971. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an ornate border around it with a vignette of two kids playing on clouds on both sides of the old Mattel Logo and a globe of the world. This item has the printed signatures of the Company’s President, Ruth Handler and Secretary, T. M. Horwith and is over 34 years old.


  • April 8, 1989 Dutch Newspaper ‘De Telegraaf’ – ‘Barbie hates Barbie” Story from  Barbara Handler and Kenneth Handler (in Dutch):


  • 1994 Ruth Handler got a kiss from Kristi Cooke, an actress dressed as a Barbie doll, during a 35th birthday celebration for the doll in 1994 at FAO Schwarz in New York City


  • 1994 Ruth Handler and Jacqueline Shannon write a book: Dream Doll: The Ruth Handler Story [Hardcover]


Ruth Handler was also writer, known for Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001),Detective Barbie: Mystery of the Carnival Caper (1998) and Barbie Riding Club (1998).


  • September 22-25, 1994 At the 35th Anniversay Barbie Festival at Disney World’s

Epicot Center in Orlando. Ruth & Barbara Handler briefly signed  special edition reproduction from that event, there are only a limited number signed.

Commemorative edition of two teenage Barbies  – one blonde and one redhead – signed by the both Handlers.

  • 1997


  • 1999

tumblr_m4hxt4TEN91qa6pd1o1_1280 *

Ruth Handler BornRuth Mosko
November 4, 1916
 Denver, ColoradoDiedApril 27, 2002
Los Angeles, California
Complications of surgery for colon cancer Known for Ruth Handler Occupation Entrepreneur, inventor, President of Mattel, Inc.Successor Robert A. Eckert Religious belief Jewish Spouse Elliott Handler (1938 – 2002) Children Barbara Handler
Kenneth Handler
 five grandchildren and one great-grand child.
  • March, 2007 – Elliot Handler Interview – Portugee


  • June 11, 2008. Oprah and Barbie’s namesake, Barbara Handler, pose for pictures with the one-of-a-kind Barbie created just for Oprah!
  • April, 2008 – Originally called Mattel Creations, it has gone on to become the largest toy maker in the world. Handler was honored by Mattel with a 90th birthday party at its headquarters in El Segundo, California. Guests included his daughter Barbara.


  • Jun. 22, 2012 -Mattel renames its design center after its founders, the Handlers

Rededication Ceremony at Mattel Inc, El Segundo for the Ruth and Elliot Handler Team Design Center.

Barbie’s shoe prints and Hot Wheels tire tracks were newly etched recently into the concrete entrance ramp of Mattel’s toy design center.

It was a fitting tribute for the El Segundo-based toymaker’s most storied brands.

The markings also could serve as a metaphor for Mattel’s late founders, Ruth and Elliot Handler, the married couple who built the business largely on the success of these two toys with mass appeal.

On Friday, the El Segundo-based toy giant rededicated the Mattel Design Center to honor the founders, renaming the building the Handler Team Center.

“This is a company that’s going to build on the history that Ruth and Elliot created,” Mattel CEO Bryan Stockton said at a ceremony with current and former employees as well as the Handlers’ daughter and Barbie namesake Barbara Handler.

On Friday, the center’s lobby was adorned with various displays, such as original Barbie and Ken dolls and early Hot Wheels play sets, representing a sentimental look at the company’s past.

The upholstery of several chairs has the original Barbie patent drawings.

The Handlers would have felt proud of Friday’s event, their daughter said.

“My mother would have just been loving it because she was pretty outgoing and proud of what she did,” said Babara.

Barbara Joyce Handler,  71. Photo by Brad Graverson Jun.22, 2012.


See also Weblog:


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