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Collection Overview

O'Neill, Rose Cecil, 1874-1944
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Rose Cecil O'Neill letters to Mr. and Mrs. William Curtis Gibson
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1


Consists of letters by Rose Cecil O'Neill, the American children's book author and illustrator, and inventor of the Kewpie doll, to her friends William Curtis and Fannie Gibson.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of sixteen illustrated autograph letters, four note cards, and a postcard from Rose O'Neill to Mr. & Mrs. William Curtis Gibson. In the bulk of the letters, addressed to William C. Gibson while he worked for Good Housekeeping and as art editor for Cosmopolitan Magazine, O'Neill discusses her Kewpies characters, publishing contracts, her life, her travels, and other daily activities. She often addresses him as "Dear Gibbles" or "Dear Gibbons" and addresses Mrs. Gibson as "Dear Girl" or "Dear Fannie." Most of the letters are in O'Neill's very distinctive script and style in which she also uses baby talk, and they all contain original drawings of her Kewpies, birds, and other characters. In some of her letters she uses a rubber stamp of the Kewpies next to her signature. Included is a typed letter from an unidentified person on Cosmopolitan Magazine letterhead, dated 2 October 1913, about wanting to publish three pages of Kewpies each month in Good Housekeeping Magazine. Also included is a photograph of O'Neill by Paul Thompson, N.Y., and a clipping of a family of birds with annotations in ink by the author.


Material is organized in one folder by date.

Collection Creator Biography:

O'Neill, Rose Cecil, 1874-1944

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.

Collection History


Gift of Robert Van Valzah, Princeton Class of 1936, on June 9, 1982 .

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Rose Cecil O'Neill letters to Mr. and Mrs. William Curtis Gibson; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1