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26 Things You Didn't Know about Barbie

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1. Did you know that it's a misconception that Barbie is from Malibu? According to an early episode of Crash Course: World History, she is actually a resident of the Indus Valley civilization from thousands of years ago. But according to Mattel, she's from Willows, Wisconsin, which is a made up town.

2. Ruth Handler, who created the Barbie doll, was inspired by a German doll from the '50s and '60s called Bild Lilli. The dolls were sold in places like tobacco shops and adult stores, because they were essentially gag gifts for events like bachelor parties. Mattel eventually acquired the rights to Bild Lilli, and now we have Barbies.

3. Barbie was co-designed by an engineer and professional missile designer named Jack Ryan, who was also married to Zsa Zsa Gabor; he was her sixth husband.

4. Mattel Inc. was founded in 1945, but Barbie didn't debut until 1959; 351,000 of them were sold that year. Ken was introduced two years later, in 1961.

5. Even before Barbie came to be, Mattel was the first toy company with commercials directed toward children.

6. Speaking of ads, years later many actresses had their first jobs in Barbie commercials, including Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate, and Maureen McCormick, who was Marsha Brady in The Brady Bunch.

7. Barbie and Ken were named after real people—Ruth's children, Barbara and Kenneth Handler. So arguably, the most famous couple of all time are named for real life siblings.

8. Talking Barbies might seem more modern, but actually, the first Barbie who talked was released in 1968.

9. And Barbie didn't reach her peak until 1992. The best selling Barbie so far is the Totally Hair Barbie, which had hair down to the ground. Over 10 million were sold in 1992.

10. In 2004 it was announced that Barbie and Ken had broken up. Barbie then started dating an Australian surfer named Blaine, but in 2011 she got back together with Ken, but only after he was redesigned with more muscles.

11. Blaine isn't Barbie's only forgotten companion; she's got a bunch of discarded family members, like her siblings Tutti and Todd and Krissy. Also her cousins Francie and Jazzie.

12. How popular is Barbie? Well, two-and-a-half times more Barbies are sold every year than babies are born in the United States. In fact, a Barbie is sold every three seconds.

13. And now that you know how many Barbies are sold, I'm sure you can only imagine the amount of Barbie clothes that are made annually. Mattel is actually one of the biggest clothing manufacturers in the world.

14. And Mattel employs people whose only job is to design Barbies and their looks. According to one designer, once a design has been submitted, it might only take a year until that Barbie can be found on the shelves.

15. As you're probably aware, Barbie has been controversial at times. For instance, in 2014, the plotline of the Barbie book I Can Be A Computer Engineer went viral. In the book, Barbie designs a computer game, but requires the assistance of her male friends to actually do the coding. People accused the book of being sexist, for good reason, and it was discontinued.

16. Another controversy: In 2014, a study from Oregon State University was published which claimed that girls who played with Barbies believe that boys have more career options than girls. In the experiment, girls between the ages of 4 and 7 played with either some Barbies or a Mrs. Potato Head. Afterwards they were given a list of careers and asked if they could have that job in the future; they were also asked if boys could have that job. Girls who played with Barbies picked fewer careers for themselves than the girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head, although to be fair that could just be because Mrs. Potato Head is the greatest toy of all time.

Long time Barbie supporter and Mental_Floss head writer Meredith would like me to say that she thinks Mrs. Potato Head is literally two-faced.

17. Meredith also wants me to mention that Barbie's had about 150 careers at this point, including astronaut, surgeon, firefighter, and many more.

18. There have also been multiple military Barbies. She's been in the Army, the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps, and Mattel actually has the Pentagon approve Barbie's military outfits.

19. Another career she's tried out: vlogging. She's released a few vlogs onto her very own YouTube channel. She's also an avid Instagrammer, so I guess Barbie and I have more in common than I thought.

20. But Barbie and I also have our differences. For instance, she has her own reality show and I promise you that I never will. It's called Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. You'll be surprised to learn that the show centers around Barbie going to her closet and talking about fashion.

21. Speaking of the dreamhouse, it was announced in 2013 that Barbie would be selling her dreamhouse in Malibu. According to Mattel, the home was worth around $25 million, a bargain at Toys R' Us for $170. It was also announced that the cast of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing would be helping her sell the 8500 square foot home, which—I just want to emphasize this—is fictional.

22. Anyway, that was quite the upgrade from Barbie's first home which was released in 1962, it was a small, one room apartment. She moved to a townhouse in 1974.

23. An estimated 99 percent of girls in the United States between the ages of 3 and 10 own at least one Barbie and the average that girls 3 to 6 own is 12 Barbies.

24. But Barbie isn't just popular in the U.S.—there are Barbies of around 50 nationalities that have been released.

25. And she's also popular with PETA, believe it or not. In 2015 Mattel announced that they would discontinue SeaWorld Barbie because of the company's questionable practices and a spokesperson from PETA commented, "Barbie has a rich history as an animal rights activist. She's actually been fur-free for her entire history. We are delighted to see that she can retain her animal-friendly image."

26. And finally, more about Barbie's animal-friendly image. There have been two Barbies with the ability to clean up after dogs. There was the Barbie and Tanner playset, which came with the dog, Tanner, his poop, and a pooper-scooper; and there was also a Barbie potty training pup set in which the puppies actually peed on little newspapers.

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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