Barbie.lili 1

Barbie’s Secret Past as Cartoon Lilli

The Barbie Doll has quite a reputation. Some mothers love them, some mothers hate them.  It’s usually because of the exaggerated feminine body of the doll. Once you understand the history of the Barbie doll, it all makes sense.  Barbie has a past that isn’t appropriate for the makings of a little girl’s doll. But that information isn’t common knowledge.
I remember standing in the aisle of Dorsey’s Toy Store in my neighborhood town of Montrose, eagerly eyeing the much-talked about doll in the black and white striped swimsuit. There were two dolls to choose from — Blonde Barbie and Brunette Barbie. There was a lot of excitement about this doll that didn’t look  like my other dolls.


Barbie made her debut in 1959 in New York. I was five years old at the time. Eventually, I got a blonde  Barbie doll, that looked like this:


barbie first one

Barbie was based on a cartoon from the German Tabloid Newspaper, The Bild. (a paper of mostly pictures, ‘bild’ in German means picture.)

Bild Newspaper


She looks more like a pin-up girl — long legs, small feet, buxom with a small waist and pouty lips. For sure, a man dreamed her up. She was named Lilli and she was a Sunday regular in the Hamburg Germany paper — just filling up some extra space. It was the 1950’s and 1960’s during post-war Germany. In 1953, the newspaper decided to market the femme-fatale cartoon as a doll.


In 1952, Reinhard Beuthian was commissioned to create a cartoon for the Bild-Zeitung newspaper.  First he drew a baby; it was rejected; then he drew the bombshell babe, Lilli. She appeared in the paper on June 24, 1952 and was a big hit until her run ended on Jan 5, 1961.


One scene showed her sitting in a fortune teller’s tent and asking — “Can’t you tell me the name and address of this rich and handsome man?”

Another:  A policeman told her that two-piece swimsuits were banned — which she answered, “Which piece do you want me to take off?”


See all the original Cartoons of Lilli 

  • Julie Harward

    Very interesting…I never did have a Barbie doll and I don’t remember ever wanting one, I was too busy being a tomboy! Happy New Year to you! 😀

  • Michemily

    Interesting post! Here are your translations:

    “If only I hadn’t promised Hans that I would visit him every day during his illness–now he’s faking his third relapse.”

    “Do I prefer light reading? The weight doesn’t matter–I have the car outside.”

    “Hans always says, money doesn’t make you happy–but he doesn’t even have that!”

    “I certainly didn’t tell Brigitte too much about you–it wasn’t even half of what I know about you!”

    “I don’t want to be some amazing dame, it only means that I’m not allowed to do what I think is fun.”

    “You were right–Broms Way is actually longer than I always thought.”

    “When Rolf and I are of different opinions, I say that the smarter one should back down–and then I have my way right away.”

    “Lame that now, when I’m doing my spring cleaning, no salesman is here to demonstrate a vacuum.”

    “No, Mr. Feidmann, that is not at all what I meant by ‘Enjoying the outdoors.'”

    “Please, Inge, quickly tell me something that I can be sad about–Peter is coming right now and he really knows how to comfort.”

    “Never alone, from today on, from the time you own me–in the case that you don’t lamely leave me at home during vacation! That would be unfaithful and a reason to divorce/separate!”

  • Deila Taylor

    Thanks for the translation! I was so curious about it.

  • MDBS

    ahaha that’s incredible!
    When I was a baby I loved play with barbie and my favourite play was cutting off its head…
    (that’s way when I was teens I loved Frech Revolucion so much???)

  • dgenetaylor

    Yes, I remember my sister’s Barbie–that her head would pop off, with some effort, and her legs too. But I preferred to see Barbie all put together.

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