Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rose O'Neill and her Kewpie Dolls

Rose O'Neill with her Kewpie dolls
State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia
Rose O'Neill with her Kewpie dolls

Host and archivist Haley Frizzle-Green looks at the Rose O’Neill Papers and the history of O'Neill's iconic creation.

Today’s story celebrates the 115th anniversary of the Kewpie Doll, created by Taney County artist Rose O’Neill.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on June 25, 1874, Rose O’Neill was a self-trained artist who called the Ozarks home. Her artwork appeared in the September 1896 issue of True magazine and were the first cartoons ever published by an American woman. O’Neill’s illustrations were later featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, and Life magazine. It wasn’t until June of 1909 that her Kewpie illustrations were introduced,
followed by their formal appearance in the Ladies Home Journal six months later. O’Neill’s Kewpies were small, round fairies inspired by Cupid and were the most popular characters in America until the appearance of Mickey Mouse. O’Neill became the highest paid female illustrator in the world and used her fortune of over 1.4 million dollars to help support her family at Bonniebrook in Taney County.

The Rose O’Neill Papers contain hundreds of letters written between the O’Neill family and friends from 1863 to 1990. The collection also contains the original Kewpie introduction letter written by Rose O’Neill on June 14, 1909.

To explore this collection and more, visit the Springfield Research Center inside MSU’s Meyer Library or find us online at