In 1910 they appeared in a 'Dotty Darling and the Kewpies' series. Each story was illustrated in verse and told of the adventures of the Darling clan and their Kewpie pals.
To quote Rose O'Neill, "Kewpie philosophy takes the unwieldliness out of wisdom, puts cheerio into charity and draws the fangs of philanthropy. I have put all of my love of humanity into this little image."
In 1912 Woman's Home Companion put out a new series of 'Kutouts,' paper dolls which were unique in that they showed not only the front but also the back of the Kewpies. Since they were played with so often, very few are now found.
By 1925, the Kewpie Kuddle, a stuffed cloth Kewpie, was created and being sold commercially. Kewpie items abounded: china hatpin holders, hair receivers and dishes, tin banks, posters, thimbles, napkins and napkin holders, cameos, books, cards, papers and more items than I can mention. Some were made in Germany by RS Royal Rudolstadt; others were made in Japan and America.
Just what comprises a Kewpie is undefinable. A doll-sometimes- a mischievous creature bur always of good will. Always stopping to help one in distress. They fly, they flit, they sail oer the moon and back again in a twinkling. They are all the things we'd like to be but never seem to get to. They stop and open doors for everyone, get presents for you at a moment's notice, always smiling and courteous. Never a frown crosses their little brows.
How did they come about? Rose O'Neill had no children of her own, and I believe these little Kewpie darlings were the children of her dreams.
She made them elfish instead of selfish and with a big red heart on their chests to show their love and blue wings on their shoulders so they could fly everywhere in the world. Fly they did, all over there world they were and still are found. Perhaps their elfishness came from the fact that Rose O'Neill and her family were Irish, hence the leprechaun look.
The first Kewpies on the Ladies' Home Journal pages were adored by the children of that era. They begged Rose to create a real Kewpie that they could cuddle and love. Happy to oblige, Rose enlisted the aid of Joseph L. Kallas in designing the first Kewpie doll. They were produced in Germany and first marketed in 1913. When the war came, the US and Japan produced them.
Rose was so delighted with the Kallas designed doll that she gave him exclusive rights to the Kewpie trademark dolls. Mr. Kallas founded and was president of Came Doll Products, which continues making Kewpies and many other dolls to this day.
Just a couple of years ago a 27" Kewpie doll was reintroduced. Originally created in the '60s and made of vinyl, she is a darling in a red and white dress. Personally I like the earlier 60s version but the newer one does have jointed knees. The toy stores are still stocked with Kewpies in various costumes for today's children aged 6 to 106.
Kewpie collectables range from the above dolls to the rare bisque action Kewpies. I have a 1" Kewpie doll which buttons into a buttonhole and was apparently used as a party favor. This one still has the original label on the back.
The O'Neill Kewpies have labels on some and in order to be positive about a bisque they should include Rose O'Neill on the bottom of their feet. When in doubt check it out, as copies abound. Taiwan makes a Cupie, Shackman puts out a Kewtie, both resembling the O'Neill Kewpie. Once you've gotten the Kewpie bug you learn to differentiate, but the Shackman Kewtie is a superb copy. I have one with a number on the back that I keep just because it is so good.
If you really want to get to know the Kewpies, join one of the clubs. The International Rose O'Neill club, PO Box 668, Branson, MO 65616 or the California Rose O'Neill Association, PO Box 241, Sun City Ca 92381.
Branson was Rose O'Neill's birthplace and they have a yearly Kewpiesta there every April. California has several meetings a year and sends fliers out to all members. They also put out Kewpie charms for members only.
A very good book on Kewpies is Rose O'Neill Kewpies and Other Works by Lois Holliday Holman. It came out in 1983 and is really chock full of pictures and stories of Rose and her Kewpies. It is a must for Kewpie lovers everywhere. She has pictures of some of the rarest Kewpies, which most of us may never be lucky enough to see. -JoAnn Wright
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