Rose O’Neill, the creator of the vintage Kewpie doll, was an early 20th century author, illustrator, artist, sculptor and entrepreneur.
She was born in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, raised in Nebraska and won her first drawing competition at the age of fourteen. Rose moved to New York where she became a well-known illustrator and spent her time between homes in New York, Connecticut and the island 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 manifests itself in her Kewpie dolls, based on the drawings she had made of a little brother when she was a little girl playing with him. All of her little looks and gestures have been incorporated into her Kewpie figures. Kewpie’s earliest figures were seen as love story illustrations in the Ladies Home Journal around 1909 and followed in the Woman’s Home Companion and Woman’s Home Journal, many of the illustrations with accompanying verses.
In 1912, their paper clippings were printed in the Women’s Home Journal. The journey of the Kewpie doll began there.
The popularity of paper dolls led to the registration of the KEWPIE brand, and in 1913 the first dolls were produced in Germany by the doll company JD Kestner. These early vintage Kewpies were made of bisque. Others made in composition and celluloid, soap and Wedgewood followed. Popularity exploded around the world and it wasn’t until around 1930 that it began to decline.
However .. Kewpie dolls have always been in production and still are today. Modern ones are mass-produced from vinyl. One company, the German Doll Company, produces them from the original Kewpie bisque molds. The Charisma Company owned by Marie Osmond is the latest company to produce the Kewpie doll which has been produced in all sizes from 1 inch to over 3 feet.
Today, if you are hoping to own a vintage Kewpie doll, you should be prepared to pay for it as they are in high demand and therefore high in price.