Jack Ryan (designer)

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Jack Ryan
John W. Ryan

(1926-11-12)November 12, 1926
DiedAugust 13, 1991(1991-08-13) (aged 64)
Cause of deathSuicide by Gunshot wound
Barbara Harris
(m. 1950; div. 1971)

(m. 1975; div. 1976)

Linda Henson
(m. 1979; died 1981)

Gari Hardy Lansing
(m. 1981; div. 1985)

Magda Orzechowski
(m. 1985)

John W. Ryan (November 12, 1926 – August 13, 1991) was an American designer. Ryan worked at toy company Mattel for 20 years, becoming the company's vice president of research and development. There he was responsible for the Barbie doll, Hot Wheels, and Chatty Cathy.[1] He was the sixth husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor.[2]


Ryan graduated from Yale University, after which he worked at aerospace company Raytheon as an engineer, working on the AIM-7 Sparrow and MIM-23 Hawk missiles.[1][2][3]

Mattel hired him for his "space-aged savvy" and knowledge of materials.[4]

In 1956, Mattel co-owner Ruth Handler returned from a European vacation with a German-designed Bild Lilli doll. She and Ryan worked on producing a similar fashion doll for the American market (the two later disputed which of them was chiefly responsible for the doll's design).[5]

Ryan worked on the V-rroom! X-15 velocipede which was named after the North American X-15 rocket-powered aircraft, and patented the V-RROOM! toy engines that simulated motorcycle engine sounds. He designed the mechanics of the Chatty Cathy dolls.[citation needed]

Ryan's relationship with Mattel soured, and in 1980 he sued Mattel for royalties; the company settled out of court.[5]


Ryan suffered a debilitating stroke in 1989; he died by gun suicide on August 13, 1991.[6][7][2][5]


  1. ^ a b "Fact of the Day - Before he worked on the original Barbie doll, Jack Ryan designed missiles for the Pentagon". Mental Floss. Mental Floss, LLC. 27 December 2002. Archived from the original on 28 October 2005.
  2. ^ a b c "Jack Ryan Dies at 65; Designer of Barbie Doll". The Associated Press. 21 August 1991 – via The New York Times.
  3. ^ Richard Warren Lewis (14 July 1975). "Jack Ryan and Zsa Zsa: A Millionaire Inventor and His Hungarian Barbie Doll". People.
  4. ^ Lori Leibovich; Suzette Lalime (26 November 1997). "The Skinny on Barbie - Essential facts about her checkered past". Salon. Salon Media Group.
  5. ^ a b c Jill Lepore (22 January 2018). "When Barbie Went to War with Bratz". The New Yorker.
  6. ^ The Toys that Made Us - Season 1 - Episode 2
  7. ^ Myrna Oliver (19 August 1991). "Jack Ryan, 65; Toy Inventor, Missile Designer". Los Angeles Times.
Husband of a Gabor Sister
Preceded by
Joshua S. Cosden, Jr.
Zsa Zsa - Sixth
January 21, 1975 – August 24, 1976
Succeeded by
Michael O'Hara