The Birth of Kewpies
In 1909, Illustrator and artist Rose O’Neill had a dream about plump little creatures she called Kewpies, short for Cupid. “Cupid gets you into trouble and the Kewpies get you out, explained O’Neill. The purpose of these creatures is to perform good deeds in a funny way. They were often seen battling injustice or promoting women's suffrage, and they always made the reader laugh.
Kewpie first appeared as illustrations in the December issue of Woman’s Home Companion, and was an immediate success. “Kewpie Pages,” which consisted of entire pages of the drawings accompanied by a short story or prose, became regular features in popular women’s magazines. These cheerful cherubs were soon easily recognized and well loved by many Americans, and their antics and adventures brought smiles to the faces of many.
As the drawings became more familiar, O'Neill created Kewpie Kutouts. These paper dolls had both a front and a back side, and were accompanied by short stories. O’Neill next created comic pages, which were printed in several newspapers. She also wrote books which included segments from former Kewpie pages, along with new materials.
Shortly thereafter, Rose began receiving letters from children asking for a Kewpie they could hold. After numerous prototypes, the Kewpie doll was born in 1913. These first dolls had straight posture with their arms at their sides. They were made from bisque or china and celluloid. As the Kewpies grew in popularity, so did the different kinds, sizes and materials of the dolls. Kewpie dolls were made in different positions, and came with a variety of outfits and accessories.
Today, Kewpies continue to capture the hearts of both young and young at heart collectors.
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