Kewpie Dolls by Rose O’Neill
The first Kewpie dolls were illustrations created by Rose O’Neill in 1909 for the Ladies Home Journal magazine. On November 4, 1913 a patent was issued in the USA to design and make the actual dolls, these early Kewpie dolls are all bisque and made by German doll maker Kestner plus others and may bear their company marking or are unmarked.
Authentic licensed Kewpie dolls all have blue tipped wings on their backs, were made of high quality materials, have star shaped hands with fingers, came with a red heart shaped Kewpie paper label. Many bisque Kewpie’s are incised on the back Rose O’Neill or bottom of foot © O’Neill (the action Kewpie’s). Early licensed all bisque Kewpie’s were not made in Japan or marked Nippon, but many Japan made Kewpie doll copies can be found. Kewpie doll molds were likely available for artists / hobbyist to make dolls as well.
Antique to vintage Kewpie dolls from a tiny 1 1/2″ to 20″ tall have been found over their long history, have been made by different companies and in a variety of materials and products. All bisque dolls or figurines are jointed only at the shoulders with straight legs are the most commonly found style, bisque head with painted or glass eyes glancing to the side, on cloth bodies or jointed toddler body. Kewpie’s were also made in celluloid, all cloth mask face, composition, plastic and vinyl. Kewpie dolls can be found on dinnerware, in Kewpie doll books, paper dolls and other paper products. Photos if clicked enlarge.
The following companies are known to have produced Kewpie dolls over the years Amsco, George Borgfeldt, Cameo, Effanbee, Fulper, Japan, Jesco, Kestner including the rare unfinished blind eyes Kewpie doll shown above left, some rare Kewpie dolls have jointed shoulders, hips or knees, a shoulder head Kewpie doll mark 13675, Knickerbocker, Krueger, Lefton, Strombecker, B. Shackman and probably others.
Some of the many Kewpie’s are Action Kewpie’s, Blunderboo dolls with a slightly different face and eye paint, Bride and Groom pudgie Huggers dolls, Cowboy with egg, Farmer, Gardner, Governor, Soldier and Nurse. Black Hottentot Kewpie’s, Kewpie holding a Mandolin, a Guitar, holding a Pen. Kewpie Thinker with a book, with a Cat, Traveler with suitcase, with a Bucket and Mop, dog Doodle or Kewpie doodle, Kewpie with a Helmet, Ladybug on a limb, with an Outhouse, Rabbit, Rose, Teddy Bear, Turkey or Umbrella, Kewpie’s can be standing, seated or lying on back or tummy. Kewpie’s came in Flower baskets, drawstring Bags, Buttonhole or Pincushion Kewpie’s, Kestner’s unfinished eyes blind Kewpie dolls, Cameo’s Skootles doll and founder Joseph Kallus known for “Cameo, Kewpie an Kallus“.
Kewpie doll books resource:
Kewpies Dolls & Art with Value Guide by author John Axe, All Bisque Dolls, Identification & Value Guide by author Patricia Smith,
Collecting Rose O’Neill’s Kewpies by David O’Neill.