Elliot Handler

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Elliot Handler
Born April 9, 1916
Chicago, Illinois
Died July 21, 2011(2011-07-21) (aged 95)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality United States
Ethnicity Jewish
Education Art Center College of Design
Occupation businessman
Known for co-founder of Mattel
Spouse(s) Ruth Moskowicz
Children Barbara Handler Segal
Kenneth Handler (predeceased)

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 to a Jewish family[3] in Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1916, and grew up in Denver, Colorado.[4] He studied industrial design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In 1929, he met his future wife Ruth Moskowicz at a B’nai B’rith dance for teenagers.[3] They later married and had two children: 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.[5] While a struggling art student and sometime designer of light fixtures, Handler partnered with Harold Matson, and designed a realistic-looking miniature piano that was quite successful earning some 300,000 orders; unfortunately, they mispriced the product and lost a dime on each one produced.[3]


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. 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.[6][7]

Elliot Handler is credited with developing the first talking doll, Chatty Baby,[3] using a pull string talking mechanism which revolutionized the toy industry. Mattel thereafter went on to develop a number of talking toys including Charmin' Chatty, toys made for cartoon favorites such as Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig; and toys made for television characters such as Herman Munster and Mr. Ed. Elliot Handler was primarily responsible for two additional 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.[3][7]

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.[7]

Handler died of heart failure at home in Century City, a district of Los Angeles, California, at age 95 on July 21, 2011.[7] Ruth Handler died in 2002.[4] 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 c d e Jewish Telegraph: "The Eulogizer: Elliot Handler, Barbie’s ‘dad,’ and more on alleged mobster Francois Abutbul" By Alan D. Abbey August 9, 2011
  4. ^ a b Chang, Andrea (July 23, 2011). "Elliot Handler dies at 95; co-founder of Mattel, inventor of Hot Wheels". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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.