October 25, 2011 AT 7:35 am

Great American Garage Entrepreneurs

Ruth-Handler

Great American Garage Entrepreneurs.

When Ruth and Elliot Handler, who had met in an industrial design course, started making picture frames in their California garage, they probably never thought their venture—Mattel—would grow into the world’s biggest toy manufacturer. More or less by accident, they wound up crafting dollhouse furniture and later children’s playthings out of spare wood scraps. In the late 1950s, Ruth determined there was a market for dolls that looked like “grown-ups”; ignoring her husband’s objections, she designed a prototype and named it after their daughter, Barbie. (Ken, named for their son, followed soon after.) Mattel struck gold with the new line, and in 1968 Ruth became the company’s president.

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