Rose O’Neill, the creator of the antique Kewpie doll, was an author, illustrator, artist, sculptor, and businesswoman of the early 19th century.
He was born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and grew up in Nebraska. He won his first drawing contest at the age of fourteen. Rose moved to New York, where she became a well-known illustrator and she spent her time between her homes in New York, Connecticut, and the Isle of Capri.
“Do good deeds in a fun way. The world needs to laugh or at least smile more than it does.”
This philosophy of hers is shown in her Kewpie dolls, which were based on drawings she had made of a little brother as a child playing with him. All the little looks and gestures of his were incorporated into the Kewpie figures of him. The first Kewpie figures were seen as love story illustrations in Ladies Home Journal around 1909 and followed in the Woman’s Home Companion and Woman’s Home Journal, many of the illustrations having accompanying verses.
In 1912, paper clippings of them were printed in the Women’s Home Journal. The Kewpie doll‘s journey began there.
The popularity of paper dolls led to the registration of the KEWPIE trademark and in 1913 the JD Kestner doll company produced the first dolls in Germany. These vintage vintage Kewpies were made from bisque. Other made in composition and celluloid, soap and Wedgewood followed. Popularity skyrocketed 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 on 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 has 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 a lot of money for it, as they are in high demand and therefore high in price.