Happy Birthday, Kewpies!!! April 25.
Reposted, because the Open House is on April 25 , and it is still a dirty rotten ripoff that Rose O’Neill gets just about zero recognition from the comics industry.
It’s the 100th Anniversary of the Kewpie, and Rose O’Neill’s beautiful estate museum at Bonniebrook is celebrating with an annual Open House on April 25. This free event will feature “refreshments and entertainment”, as well as massive loads of exuberant kewpishness.
Thanks to Roxanne Young, secretary of Bonniebrook, and Martha Melton for writing to bring this to our attention. You can learn more about the Kewpiesta and other events in and near Branson Missouri by visiting this link at the Branson Courier.
Branson’s “Kewpiesta” is an annual commemoration of the “Kewpie” and its creator Rose O’Neill, which has become an Ozarks tradition since its initial beginning in 1967. It is a combination of Rose O’Neill and Kewpie events that is unmatched anywhere else in the world and includes the exhibition and auction of Kewpie Dolls and Kewpie collectibles, social events, and the annual meeting of the International Rose O’Neill Club.
I posted about comics and illustration pioneer Rose O’Neill and her contentious relationship with her husband Grey Latham, as well as Latham’s efforts in the development of film projection here.
While almost everyone has heard of the Kewpie Doll, almost no one I know in comics has any familiarity with its creator Rose O’Neill, who was once one of the most famous women in the world. O’Neill was honored last year by the National Women’s History Project, but alas, O’Neill has yet to win a posthumous Eisner or any other award recognizing her contribution to comics.
The Rose O’Neill Society has a website with an extensive biography, gallery, and shop, as well as information about the museum at Bonniebrook which houses dozens of pieces of original art, including her Sweet Monsters illustrations. These were exhibited to great success in Paris in 1921. The museum will begin offering prints of these works by the end of the month.
Rose O’Neill’s Kewpies were a worldwide phenomenon, based on cartoons she created for The Ladies Home Journal. The pudgy, cherub-like characters in O’Neill’s illustrations made kids clamor for huggable versions. Soon O’Neill was manufacturing bisque porcelain winged cuties, and elaborate paper dolls.
Here is O’Neill’s original patent registration drawing for the dolls.
Nicknamed The Queen of Bohemian Society, O’Neill’s circle of friends included Thomas Hart Benton, Booth Tarkington, and Kahlil Gabran. An unflattering portrait of O’Neill is said to have popped up in one of Tarkington’s novels, though no contemporary photos of her match the description of the 200 lbs woman rudely described.
O’Neill was also a novelist and some of her books are in the public domain. You can read them for free at Project Gutenberg.
She was also a prominent feminist. Here we see Kewpies campaigning for women’s rights:
Have a look at her illustrations here at The American Archives.
A sculptor, and poet as well, O’Neill’s largely untrained talent and accomplishments are even more remarkable considering the times in which she lived.
She has been lauded in many national art exhibits such as Monstrous Craws and Character Flaws at the Library of Congress.
For a detailed overview of Rose O’Neill’s Kewpie doll manufacturing history, check out this link for the Cameo Doll Factory.
It would be immensely satisfying to see this gifted woman get the attention she deserves from the comics community. It’s well past time she was inducted into one of our numerous Hall of Fame Award whatnots.
Please take some time to peruse the links here to learn more about the remarkable Rose O’Neill. Thanks.
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With thanks to the Rose O’Neill Museum for their kind words and support.
Kewpies and the art of Rose O’Neill are public domain.