Biography and History

Rose Cecil O'Neill was an American children's book author and illustrator. O'Neill was born in Wilkes-barre, Pennsylvania. Her family later moved to Taney County, Missouri, where her brother built a large family home which they named Bonniebrook. In 1893 O'Neill moved to New York and sold illustrations to many of the prominent periodicals. Her work appeared in such magazines as Collier's, Truth, McClure's, and Harper's. She also worked as a staff artist for Puck magazine. It was at Bonniebrook in 1909 that O'Neill created the Kewpie doll, a roly-poly elf with a child's body, small wings, and a turnip top head. The Kewpies made their first public appearance in Women's Home Companion in December 1909. They were immediately popular and quickly became a large merchandising industry. O'Neill was commissioned for her Kewpie designs for magazine stories, paper dolls, and advertisements appearing in Good Housekeeping and Ladies' Home Journal, as well as other periodicals, and as a comic strip for The New York Journal in the 1930's. Popular at this time were the "Kewpie Kutouts", the first of its kind double-sided paper doll. The first Kewpie children's book, The Kewpies and Dottie Darling, appeared in 1910, followed by two more in 1912, and the last one, The Kewpies and the Runaway Baby, in 1928. The Amsterdam Theater on 42nd Street in New York was the site of a Kewpie musical production in 1919. O'Neill's sister Callista, whom she mentions in her letters, worked as her business manager.

Source: From the finding aid for C1153