Rose O’Neill, the creator of the vintage Kewpie doll, was an author, illustrator, artist, sculptor and business woman of the early nineteen hundreds.
She was born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and grew up in Nebraska.and won her first drawing contest at the age of fourteen. Rose moved to New York where she became a known illustrator and spent her time between homes in New York, Connecticut and the Isle of Capri.
“Do good deeds in a funny way. The world needs to laugh or at least smile more than it does.”
This philosophy of hers shows in her Kewpie dolls which were based on drawings she had made of a little brother when she was a young girl playing with him. All of his little looks and gestures were incorporated into her Kewpie figures. The first Kewpie figures were seen as illustrations of love stories in the Ladies Home Journal around 1909 and followed in the Woman’s Home Companion and the Woman’s Home Journal, many of the illustrations having verses to go with them.
In 1912, paper cutouts of the them were printed in the Women’s Home Journal. The journey of the Kewpie doll began there.
The popularity of the paper dolls led to the registration of the KEWPIE trademark and in 1913 the first dolls were produced in Germany by the J.D. Kestner doll company. These early vintage Kewpies were made of bisque. Others followed made in composition and celluloid, soap and Wedgewood. The popularity boomed around the world and it wasn’t until around 1930 that it began to wane.
However.. Kewpie dolls have always been in production and are to this day. The modern ones are mass produced in vinyl. One company the German Doll Company produces them from the original bisque Kewpie molds. The Charisma Company owned by Marie Osmond is the latest company to produce the Kewpie doll which have been produced in every size from 1 inch to over 3 feet.
Today, if you hope to own a vintage Kewpie doll, you should be prepared to pay top dollar for it as they are high in demand and therefore high in price.