Museum logo
Museum logo

Object Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Catalog Number 9733-128
Title Doll; Celluloid; Kewpie
Object Name Doll
Description Sall celluloid Kewpie doll with eyes looking toward the right. It is molded as one piece with its legs fused together and arms out at its sides. There is a ribbon tied around its neck.
Year Range from 1913
Material celluloid
Makers mark 10/0
Height (in) 1.5
History Found in a home that formerly belonged to the Joseph L. Kizer family of Lincoln. Joseph his wife Bell, had two sons, T. Leslie and Wilson M. and a daughter, Charlotte. According to Who's Who in Lincoln (1928), Charlotte graduated from Lincoln High School in 1918, so this doll may be of about the right age to have belonged to her.

This is a Kewpie style doll but does not have authorized Kewpie marks.

Kewpies were designed by Rose O'Neill, a self-trained artist who built a successful career as a magazine and book illustrator and, at a young age, became the best-known and highest-paid female commercial illustrator in the United States. She also wrote novels and poetry. O'Neill earned a fortune and international fame by creating the Kewpie, the most widely known cartoon character until Mickey Mouse.
Rose Cecil O'Neill was born in 1874, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. As a young girl, O'Neill traveled with her family in a Conestoga wagon to Battle Creek, Nebraska. She won a drawing contest for the Omaha World-Herald when she was thirteen. At nineteen, O'Neill traveled alone to New York City to sell her first novel and soon after she began a career as a professional artist.
By her early twenties, O'Neill was nationally known for her illustrations in popular magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Home Companion. She also drew hundreds of cartoons for the humorous magazine Puck. During this period of her life O'Neill had two brief marriages, the first to Gray Latham in 1896 and then to Harry Leon Wilson in 1902. She remained single after 1907. While O'Neill worked as an artist in New York City, her family moved from Nebraska to a homestead in Taney County, Missouri.
O'Neill's Kewpies made their first appearance as character drawings in a women's magazine in December 1909. Kewpies were fanciful, elf-like babies with a top-knot head, a wide smile, and sidelong eyes. They were both impish and kind and solved all kinds of problems in humorous ways. O'Neill described them as "a sort of little round fairy whose one idea is to teach people to be merry and kind at the same time." The Kewpies were immediately popular with both children and adults.
In 1913 O'Neill patented a doll based on the Kewpie character. She oversaw the making of the first Kewpie dolls originally produced in Germany. The dolls were sold all over the world along with a vast array of Kewpie merchandise such as tableware, fabrics, and trinkets.
By 1914 O'Neill was the highest-paid female illustrator in America. In addition to her illustrations in magazines, books, and newspapers, Rose O'Neill also wrote children's books featuring the Kewpies, as well as novels and poetry. In the 1930s, her fortunes dwindled due to her generosity and the financial stress of a worldwide economic depression. Also, after thirty years of popularity, interest in the Kewpie character started to wane. O'Neill's artwork-and the Kewpies-were no longer in high demand as realistic photographs replaced fanciful illustrations in magazines and newspapers.
In 1937 O'Neill retreated permanently to Missouri to live at Bonniebrook. She died in 1944, at the age of 70 and was buried at Bonniebrook.




Rose O'Neill was a self-trained artist who built a successful career as a magazine and book illustrator and, at a young age, became the best-known and highest-paid female commercial illustrator in the United States. She also wrote novels and poetry. O'Neill earned a fortune and international fame by creating the Kewpie, the most widely known cartoon character until Mickey Mouse.
Rose Cecil O'Neill was born in 1874, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. As a young girl, O'Neill traveled with her family in a Conestoga wagon to Battle Creek, Nebraska. She won a drawing contest for the Omaha World-Herald when she was thirteen. At nineteen, O'Neill traveled alone to New York City to sell her first novel and soon after she began a career as a professional artist.
By her early twenties, O'Neill was nationally known for her illustrations in popular magazines such as Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Woman's Home Companion. She also drew hundreds of cartoons for the humorous magazine Puck. During this period of her life O'Neill had two brief marriages, the first to Gray Latham in 1896 and then to Harry Leon Wilson in 1902. She remained single after 1907. While O'Neill worked as an artist in New York City, her family moved from Nebraska to a homestead in Taney County, Missouri.
O'Neill's Kewpies made their first appearance as character drawings in a women's magazine in December 1909. Kewpies were fanciful, elf-like babies with a top-knot head, a wide smile, and sidelong eyes. They were both impish and kind and solved all kinds of problems in humorous ways. O'Neill described them as "a sort of little round fairy whose one idea is to teach people to be merry and kind at the same time." The Kewpies were immediately popular with both children and adults.
In 1913 O'Neill patented a doll based on the Kewpie character. She oversaw the making of the first Kewpie dolls originally produced in Germany. The dolls were sold all over the world along with a vast array of Kewpie merchandise such as tableware, fabrics, and trinkets.
By 1914 O'Neill was the highest-paid female illustrator in America. In addition to her illustrations in magazines, books, and newspapers, Rose O'Neill also wrote children's books featuring the Kewpies, as well as novels and poetry. In the 1930s, her fortunes dwindled due to her generosity and the financial stress of a worldwide economic depression. Also, after thirty years of popularity, interest in the Kewpie character started to wane. O'Neill's artwork-and the Kewpies-were no longer in high demand as realistic photographs replaced fanciful illustrations in magazines and newspapers.
In 1937 O'Neill retreated permanently to Missouri to live at Bonniebrook. She died in 1944, at the age of 70 and was buried at Bonniebrook.
Credit line Mrs. Carol Irwin
Collection Irwin, Mrs. Carol