One traces its roots to the proverbial "inventor's garage," while
the other one -- since the story is either truth or urban legend,
depending on which source you want to believe -- might have its
roots in the White House.
Prior to the three-dimensional Barbie doll, most dolls were
two-dimensional and made of cardboard. They came with paper dresses
with little tabs that bent over the edges of the doll, as well as
hats with slits to slide over their heads. Like her cardboard
predecessors, the Barbie dolls were also patterned after full-grown
women. Ruth wanted to create a doll that inspired girls to think
about what they wanted to become when they grew up.
Ruth named the Barbie doll after her daughter. She also created
the Mattel name in 1943 when she combined the names of the company's
co-founders: Elliot Handler, who was her husband, and Harold
Mattson. Barbie has accompanied millions of girls through their
childhood years. Her boyfriend, Ken, was named after real-life
Barbie's real-life brother. More than a billion Barbie dolls have
been sold since Barbie arrived on the scene at the annual Toy Fair
in New York City in 1959. Oddly enough, when Handler approached the
all-male group of advertising executives at Mattel, the group
rejected her Barbie doll idea because they thought the doll was too
expensive and didn't have enough potential.
The Barbie doll is the toy industry's most successful product
line of all time, a line that consists of more than 600 different
Barbies. A Barbie was even included in the official "America's Time
Capsule" buried at the 1976 Bicentennial celebration. Barbie also
inspired the creation of another "doll" -- G.I. Joe.
[to top of second column]
The Baby Ruth candy bar made its debut in 1921 as a product of
the Curtiss Candy Company. The company claims that the bar was named
after President Grover Cleveland's baby daughter, who was born in
This is where it gets interesting -- and where the urban legend
comes into play.
The Curtiss Candy Company claims that the name and the style of
lettering were patterned after a medallion at a Chicago expo in
1893. The medallion pictured the president, along with his wife and
The main Curtiss office was in Chicago, and their official
explanation of the bar's name was: "Our candy bar made its initial
appearance in 1921, some years before Babe Ruth … became famous. The
similarity of names, therefore, is purely coincidental." The company
went on to explain that Ruth Cleveland visited the Curtiss Candy
Company when the company was just getting started. Since Ruth
Cleveland had died at the age of 12 in 1904 and the company wasn't
founded until 1916 (the candy bar made its debut in 1921), I'm going
to go out on a limb and say that their claim wasn't totally
accurate. Then again, both the company and the presidential
medallion mentioned earlier were from Chicago. Plus, the candy bar
was named "Baby Ruth" rather than "Babe Ruth."
By 1921, Babe Ruth had become the famous Yankees outfielder,
while Grover Cleveland had been out of office for more than 25
years. This makes it hard to believe that the candy bar was named
after Ruth Cleveland.
So are we really supposed to believe that the company named the
candy bar after the former president's daughter rather than a rising
star like Babe Ruth?
It's hard to say for sure. At least there's no doubt where Barbie
got her name.
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2007
(Text from file received
from Paul Niemann)