Elliot Handler was the co-founder of Mattel. With his wife, he was a developer of some of the biggest-selling toys in American history, including Barbie dolls, Chatty Cathy, Creepy Crawlers and Hot Wheels.
(April 9, 1916 – July 21, 2011)
Family and educationHandler was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1916, and grew up in Denver, Colorado. He studied industrial design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He married Ruth Moskowicz and they had a daughter who is the namesake of Barbie dolls and a son who died in 1994 of a brain tumor, but who was the namesake of Ken dolls.
MattelMattel was named after business partners Harold Matson and Elliot Handler. Elliot's wife, Ruth, took over Matson's role when the Handlers bought out his share in the late 1940s. Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the Barbie doll that debuted in 1959 and which Ruth named after their daughter Barbara Handler. The Barbie doll is still one of the top-selling dolls. Mattel introduced the talking Chatty Cathy doll in 1960.
Later talking dolls included Chatty Baby, Charmin' Chatty, and toys made for cartoon favorites, such as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. Television characters, such as Herman Munster and Mr. Ed, were also transformed into Mattel talking toys. The pull string talking mechanism in these dolls and toys revolutionized the toy industry.
Elliot Handler had a direct hand in the production of two Mattel product lines. In 1966 Mattel introduced smaller dolls called Liddle Kiddles. Handler claimed he wanted them to resemble little children in neighborhoods across America. They were sculpted by doll artist Martha Armstrong-Hand. Kiddles were a great success and continued to be produced in different versions until the early 1970s. Another product line was Hot Wheels, introduced in 1968, which gave rise to 10,000 different models.
Later lifeOriginally called Mattel Creations, it has gone on to become the largest toy maker in the world. In April 2008, Handler was honored by Mattel with a 90th birthday party at its headquarters in El Segundo, California. Guests included his daughter Barbara Segal, after whom the Barbie doll was named.
Handler died of heart failure at home in Century City, a district of Los Angeles, California, at age 95 on July 21, 2011. Ruth Handler died in 2002. He was survived by his 70 year-old daughter Barbara.