Born this day in 1874: Rose Cecil O’Neill (1874–1944), magazine illustrator, writer, and businesswoman who created the Kewpies.
O’Neill was a popular magazine illustrator. Her greatest fame, however—and most of her wealth—came from the creation of the enormously popular Kewpies. Kewpies began as illustrations in the Ladies’ Home Journal. In a blaze of merchandizing Kewpies subsequently appeared as items such as figurines, salt and pepper shakers, inkwells, and on fabric, greeting cards, stationery, and, of course, as dolls. Kewpie dolls were first manufactured in 1913 and netted O’Neill royalties of $1.5 million. The wealth from marketing Kewpies allowed O’Neill to indulge in more serious (and much darker) art, including monumental sculpture, painting, and novel and poetry writing.
Various manufacturers have been churning out Kewpie dolls almost continuously since 1913.
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