Elliot Handler

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Elliot Handler (April 9, 1916 – July 21, 2011) was an American inventor and businessman. He 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.[1][2]

Family and education[edit]

Handler was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1916, and grew up in Denver, Colorado.[3] He studied industrial design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He married Ruth Moskowicz and they had a daughter, Barbara who is the namesake of Barbie dolls and a son, Ken (who died of a brain tumor in 1994) who was the namesake of Ken dolls.[4] The Handlers had made a tradition of naming their toys after family members and when Barbara Handler married Allan Segal, they came out with Allan, Ken's buddy. The 1965 talking doll Baby Cheryl was named after the Handler's first grandchild, and the Todd doll in the Barbie line was named for their grandson. [5][6]


Mattel 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.[6]

Later life[edit]

Originally 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.[6]

Handler died of heart failure at home in Century City, a district of Los Angeles, California, at age 95 on July 21, 2011.[6] Ruth Handler died in 2002.[3] He was survived by his 70 year-old daughter Barbara.


  1. ^ Miller, Stephen (July 23, 2011). "Hot Wheels' Driver And Barbie's Dad". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones). Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  2. ^ Chang, Andrea (2011-07-24). "Elliot Handler, co-founder of toymaker Mattel and inventor of Hot Wheels, dies at 95". Los Angeles Times (Washington Post). Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  3. ^ a b Chang, Andrea (July 23, 2011). "Elliot Handler dies at 95; co-founder of Mattel, inventor of Hot Wheels". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ People: "As a Tiny Plastic Star Turns 30, the Real Barbie and Ken Reflect on Life in the Shadow of the Dolls" By Michelle Green and Denise Gellene March 06, 1989
  5. ^ Noland, Claire (July 22, 2011). "Elliot Handler, toy maker and Mattel co-founder, dies at 95". The Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d Duhigg, Charles (July 22, 2011). "Elliot Handler, Co-Founder of Mattel Toys, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2011.