Barbie role model: “Bild Lily” from Hamburg | – History

Status: 19.11.2021 05:00 AM

Barbie dates back to a North German invention: “Bild-Lilli”. A daily cartoon in the newspaper “Bild” made the character so famous that in 1955 a doll was created as an advertising icon.

by Stephanie Grossman

High braid, high heels, a thin waist: this is what Lily, the main character of the comic strip cartoonist Reinhard Bothen, looks like. On June 24, 1952, his black and white drawing filled a one-column gap on the second page of the first edition of The newspaper “Bild” Axel Springer. It shows how ‘Lily’ can be predicted by the fortuneteller – and she’s rosy in real life too. Because from the temporary beginning, a real success story developed in the post-war years, Made in Germany.

The Wirtschaftswunder years: the figure becomes a role model

Successful producer of the newspaper “Bild”: doll “Lily”.

“Lily” is typical of the German era.The economic miracle.” With her feminine curves, she conforms to the ideal beauty paradigm of the 1950s. With a plump mouth and black eyelashes, not only setting fashion trends, “Lily” expresses the newly acquired freedom and joy of life in the cartoons – and reflects the image of the woman in the For example, Bothin said to her, “A car broke down and I wouldn’t be here with a long bullet if a young truck driver hadn’t helped.” Drawing attention to the fact that two-piece swimsuits are forbidden on the beach, the young woman replied: “Well, which part should I take off? ?”

Today, such sentences evoke only a tired smile, and then appeared at that time rude and disrespectful. A confident young single woman who earns her money becomes a role model for many girls and women.

Successful comedy brought to life


Large or Small: “BILD-Lilli” is available in two sizes.

Only a year after its appearance, “Lilli” became so popular that the editors of “Bild” decided to develop a doll of the figure as an advertising medium. The comic is about becoming a 3D “Lilly”. The toy factory O. & M. Hausser in Neustadt near Coburg, famous for its elastoline figures, got its hands on a demand for dolls. Based on drawings by Reinhard Bothen, designer Max Weisbrot created a prototype of a hard plastic doll with a movable head and model pumps – the beginning of Lily’s career as a doll and advertising icon.

Lily does not come cheap

Between 1955 and 1964, about 130,000 dolls were made with blond, dark or red hair and red lips, in two sizes: 19 and 30 cm in height, at exorbitant prices of 7.50-12 DM. Since office workers at the time earned an average of about 200 to 300 DM per month, the doll is not a bargain. In addition to the doll itself, there are more than 150 outfits that “Lilli” can buy – from bikinis to fur coats. The original garments are equipped with Prym snaps. Another important accessory for the advertising icon is the newspaper “Bild” in miniature form. The target group of this marketing strategy is young women. In the 1960s, Bild ran advertisements to encourage men to give their loved ones “lily” instead of flowers.

Ruth Handler, founder of Mattel, discovers “Lilli”

“Bild-Lilli” is not only a bestseller in a kiosk in Germany, but throughout Europe and even abroad. So Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, discovered the doll while on vacation in Switzerland in 1956. She is passionate about “Lilli.” Because it is not one of the typical baby dolls of the time, but it embodies an adult woman with a touch of eroticism, and her clothes can be changed at will. Handler sees the possibility of creating a doll like “Lily” in the US market.

Barbie’s victory means the end of “Lily”.


After the rights were sold to the American company Mattel, production of “Lilly” in Germany was discontinued in the mid-1960s.

Finally, on March 9, 1559, Ruth Handler presented a Barbie doll at an American toy fair in New York. She is “lily” like cut from the face. With the introduction of Barbie, the slow ending of “Lilli” begins. Bothin’s last comic appeared on January 5, 1961. Three years later, in 1964, Mattel bought the rights to “Build Lily”. While Barbie had grown into a bestseller in the United States and is still generating a lot of sales today, production of “Lilli” had to be discontinued in Germany. Today the advertising doll is a desirable item for collectors. Depending on the condition and original packaging, their prices can reach around 1,000 euros.

As a model for what may be the world’s most famous doll, “Bild-Lilli” is remembered as a North German invention.

additional information

Bernhard Markowitz of Hamburg with his pioneering invention from the 1960s: arm bands.  © NDR / Gebrueder Beetz Film Production / Annette Rave

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Television pioneer Manfred von Arden in his research lab in 1930. © picture alliance / IMAGNO / Austrian Archives (S) Photo: Austrian Archives (S)

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Our story | 17.11.2021 | 9:00 pm

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