With their large pointy heads, cherubic bodies, and mischievous facial expressions, Kewpies have become a doll icon over the last century. These potbellied babies were dreamed up by illustrator Rose O’Neil in 1909 and first appeared as a comic for Ladies’ Home Journal. Creative and entrepreneurial, O’Neil developed Kewpies into a line of bisque dolls with the help of German toy company Waltershausen. The dolls were such a success that Kewpies began appearing in advertising campaigns and on products, and they even promoted the women’s suffrage movement.
O’Neil’s Walnut Shade, Missouri, estate now houses the Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and Homestead. Visitors can view some of her earliest commercial illustrations, artwork, and hundreds of antique Kewpies. Although Kewpie dolls may not be actively campaigning for social justice or selling JELL-O anymore, they do continue to make the occasional appearance. Japanese “Kewpie fusion” toys are a new spin on the old doll, and rival schools should definitely watch out for this rough-and-tumble football mascot!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.