This week in history we celebrate the anniversary of two historic events that have had a profound impact on American culture, even being able to enter into practically every American home.
On March 9, 1959, 61 years ago, the first Barbie doll was released at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Ruth Handler, the doll’s creator and co-founder of Mattel, debuted Barbie to the world as the first mass-produced doll to possess adult features.
Handler came up with the idea after seeing her daughter become bored with baby dolls and want to make paper dolls of adult women, to imagine herself in the future. A doll of this type already existed in Germany, named Lilli, however the Lilli doll was not marketed towards children, instead it was meant to be a naughty gag gift for adult men. Not exactly the nicest backstory for one of America’s most beloved children’s toys.
Mattel bought the rights to the Lilli doll, cleaned up her image and renamed her after Handler’s daughter, Barbara. Standing at 11 inches with wavy locks of blonde hair, Barbie was an instant hit, inspiring the creation of Barbie’s boyfriend Ken in 1961, Barbie’s best friend Midge in 1963 and Barbie’s little sister Skipper in 1964. Since then a list of accessories followed, including the legendary “Barbie Dream House.”
Barbie’s run has not gone without controversy, receiving criticism in recent decades surrounding the doll’s unrealistic body features, encouragement of materialism and reinforcement of traditional gender roles. Nevertheless, the Barbie doll is an undisputed staple in American pop culture, with billions of Barbie products sold worldwide following its initial release in 1959.
On March 12, 1933, 87 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast his first “fireside chat” to the American public. Eight days after his inauguration, Roosevelt spoke to the Depression-stricken nation, with the intention to ease the fears of the people.
Since the stock market crash of 1929, the unemployment rate soared as high as 30% in some parts of the country. Roosevelt’s speeches would be delivered very informally, addressing listeners as fellow human beings, reminding people of all walks of life to have faith in the future of the American economy and, later, in the American military during World War II.
Over his unprecedented 12-year presidency, Roosevelt delivered over 30 “fireside chats,” connecting with over 90% of the American people, as radios were one of the most popular household amenities of the 1930s. This form of addressing the people was revolutionary for the time, as the majority of previous presidents spoke to the people through spokespersons or journalists. Over his time in office, FDR would receive millions of letters from Americans of all classes, genders, races and professions, thanking him for coming into their homes in the evenings, and speaking directly to them. No other president would be able to connect with their fellow countrymen in quite the same way.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.