Friday, August 14, 2009

Dirndl for Barbie

It was to happen sooner or later…. Just in time for the Munich Oktoberfest, Barbie – the most American of all dolls – will add a Dirndl to her vast collection of outfits. Designed by Munich designer Lola Paltinger the stylish Bavarian dress will be unveiled at the Oktoberfest and other events.
This means Barbie has come full circle. Barbie was inspired by the Bild-Lilli doll, who was presented as a young, attractive woman, dressed in fashionable clothes and having her own career, and who was modeled after the heroine of a popular 1950s comic strip in Bild magazine. At that time, Ruth Handler, American mother and wife of a Martell toy company co-founder, was looking for a doll for her daughter that was not an infant. On a trip to Europe, she saw Bild-Lilli, brought several of the dolls to America, made some design changes, and convinced her husband to manufacture her new Barbie. And the rest is history…
For more on the story go to, which is also the source of the picture used here. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Historic American Newspapers in Languages Other Than English?

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers ( is a new digital project initiated by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. The Web site provides descriptive information about all American newspapers published from 1690 to the present day, including those in languages other than English, such as Albanian, Arabic, Cherokee, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Norwegian, Thai, and many more. Information on a specific newspaper includes title, place of publication, publisher, dates of publication, frequency, succeeding titles, and a summary of available holdings, in original format or microfilm, at various institutions.

Digital images of select newspaper pages can also be viewed online. At this point in the project, only pages from English-language papers published from 1880 to 1992 from the following states are available: California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

We at the MKI would of course like to be able to search, retrieve, and view pages from German-language newspapers, and hope they might be included in the scope of the project as it continues. No doubt researchers would like to see pages from newspapers published in all the other languages as well, which would help to create a richer picture of American history.

A search of the site shows that only Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Vermont had no German-language newspapers, while Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wyoming only had ones published in Prisoner of War camps. Consulting the impressive three-volume The German Language Press of the Americas by Karl Arndt and May Olson (M√ľnchen: Verlag Dokumentation, 3rd edition, 1976), shows just a few differences, particularly for Nevada, where there were apparently four extremely short-lived German-language papers. It may be that no copies survived, and thus none of the libraries reporting to the online project had any records for them.

Chronicling America is an important project, and we look forward to checking in on its progress in the future.