The Cameo Doll Company produced Kewpie dolls, first in composition, then in hard plastic and vinyl, over an almost fifty year period.
Kewpies were created in 1909 by American artist Rose O’Neill as cupid-like imps in her illustrations for Women’s Home Companion magazine. Three years later, George Borgfeldt, a major doll distributor, licensed the rights to produce Kewpies as dolls. Joseph Kallus, a teenaged art student, helped develop them into a three-dimensional form. These first Kewpies were produced in bisque by German manufacturers. The first composition Kewpies had only head and hands of compo; the rest of the doll’s body was stuffed cloth. These were advertised in the 1921 Sears catalog and were probably contracted by Borgfeldt as well.
In 1922 Mr. Kallus founded the Cameo Doll Company, and began producing all-composition Kewpies. This scan from the 1922 Sears catalog shows the early compo Kewpie with legs molded together like the German bisque version. The molded pedestal is painted blue to match Kewpie’s wings. This style of doll was also produced without the pedestal, and some of these were talcum powder containers.
Scan from 1922 Sears catalog.
Cameo’s next version of Kewpie was still jointed only at the shoulders, but had a wider stance with legs separated. Like the first version, this Kewpie was sold nude with a label on his chest, and had eyes glancing to the right.
In the 1940’s Kewpie was jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips. He was dressed in a cotton print sunsuit, shoes and socks. He had lost his label and his wings, and his eyes now glanced to the left. Kewpie now looked less like a fantasy character and more like a human toddler.
Kewpie’s box featured a rather scary-looking photo.
Cameo produced other dolls in composition as well, including Scootles and Giggles, who were also designed by Rose O’Neill. They went on to make Kewpie in many different vinyl versions, until the company closed in 1969. Kewpies continued to be produced by other firms under license into the 21st century.
Copyright 2012-2015 by Zendelle Bouchard.