Barbie, now an American icon, actually has German roots, being loosely based on a German Doll called Bild Lili, originally aimed at adults as a tie in to a newspaper comic strip.
Ruth Handler, wife of Elliot Handler, a co-founder of Mattel, had conceived of such a doll after watching their daughter play with paper dolls in adult capacities. In the early 1950s, most if not all dolls were representations of infants. Elliot and the other directors of Mattel were not enthusiastic of the idea. In 1956, Ruth took a trip to Europe and saw the Bild Lili doll, and bought 3, one for her daughter, and two to show Mattel. The doll was reworked by Mattel engineers, and now, at 53 years old, Barbie is still a best-seller, and does not look a day older.