German cartoonist Reinhard Beuthien created the cartoon character Lilli for a newspaper filler on June 24, 1952 in Bild-Zeitung Hamburg, Germany. She was popular among readers and was portrayed as a sexy character who was also an independent go-getter type. The character also had a classy and fashionable taste in clothing for which Mr. Beuthien’s wife Erika had a contribution for its fashion designs. From then on Reinhard decided to manufacture this character into a doll and consigned in to Max Weissbrodt of the Hausser – Elastolin Company in Neustadt Germany.
Lilli was first launched in Germany on August 12, 1955 and the dolls were usually bought in a few toy stores and mostly in smoke shops. These were then exported to different countries including USA wherein its doll stand differs from the original ones. The typical stand was labeled Bild Lilli but the doll stands distributed in the USA only had the label “Lilli” on it. The doll stand also came with a miniature copy of the Hamburg newspaper.
Lilli’s doll packaging was created by Mrs. E. Martha Marr who was the owner of the 3 M dolls and the mother-in-law of the owner of the Hausser Company. The package was a clear oval cylinder with a lid. The doll measured 7.5 to 8 inches and another size of 11.5 inches and had a painted face with side glancing eyes and a narrow set of eyebrows. Her shoes and earrings were molded and the doll was primarily made with all plastic with her limbs held by coated rubber bands inside its body. The doll’s hair, attached by a hidden screw, was a curly one with split bangs and a ponytail. She was also technically called as the predecessor of the Barbie doll today.
The creator of Barbie, who was Ruth Handler, found this doll while she was shopping in Europe in 1956 which matched the doll she wanted to manufacture. This was the beginning of the well-loved Barbie dolls. Ruth bought three of these Lilli dolls in which one was given to Ruth’s daughter Barbie and the two were given to the designers of Mattel. On March 9, 1959, Mattel launched the Barbie dolls at a toy fair in New York. Eventually in 1964, Mattel purchased the rights to the Lilli dolls which then ended its production.
However, the Lilli doll head molds were sold to the Dura-Fam Ltd which is a British Hong Kong firm. The company produced a similar 11.5-inch doll which was marked “Hong Kong” while some set of head molds were leased to Chang-Pi Su Co. The Chang-Pi Su Co dolls measured 7.5 to 8 inches which was launched with the name “Cherie”. Other molds went to Marx which used them on their Bonnie dolls and some went to Fab-LU or the Luften Limited.
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