Rose Cecil O'Neill

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Rose Cecil O'Neill


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Rose Cecil O'Neill was an American cartoonist, illustrator, artist, and writer. She built a successful career as a magazine and book illustrator and, at a young age, became the best-known and highest-paid female commercial illustrator in the United States. O' Neill earned a fortune and international fame by creating the Kewpie, the most widely known cartoon character until Mickey Mouse.

The daughter of a book salesman and a homemaker, O'Neill was raised in rural Nebraska. She exhibited interest in the arts at an early age, and sought a career as an illustrator in New York City at age fifteen. Her Kewpie cartoons, which made their debut in a 1909 issue of Ladies' Home Journal, were later manufactured as bisque dolls in 1912 by J. D. Kestner, a German toy company, followed by composition material and celluloid versions. The dolls were wildly popular in the early twentieth century, and are considered to be one of the first mass-marketed toys in the United States.

O'Neill also wrote several novels and books of poetry, and was active in the women's suffrage movement. She was for a time the highest-paid female illustrator in the world upon the success of the Kewpie dolls.



“Rose Cecil O'Neill,” Westport Public Schools Digital Collections, accessed February 26, 2024,

Item Relations

Item: Kewpies (March 1927) dcterms:creator This Item
Item: Kewpies (November 1926) dcterms:creator This Item
Item: Kewpies (February 1927) dcterms:creator This Item
Item: Kewpies (July 1925) dcterms:creator This Item