Friday, August 2, 2013

Bonniebrook- Rose O'Neill Homestead, Kewpie Doll & Fine Art Museum

When my girlfriends came for the annual
get together this spring, I thought they would
enjoy a visit to Bonniebrook, located just a few
miles from my cabin.  They were in for a
 real treat, little did they know that Rose
 O'Neill was so much more than the creator
 of the Kewpie doll.
Rose O'neill was a self taught artist, illustrator, sculptress,
 novelist, designer, poet, entrepreneur, philanthropist,
& marketing genius.  She traveled the world, was active in
the Woman's Suffrage movement, considered of the world's most
5 beautiful women & was truly an original.  She was often
 described as "The Queen of Bohemian Society" because she
wore her hair down and preferred long loose fitting
gowns similar to the those worn during the Greek period.
Legend has it, when Rose was 18, her mother
sold the family cow to finance a move to New York
for Rose, in hopes she could sell her drawings.
In no time at all, her illustrations graced the pages
of  Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and
Woman's Home Companion.  She was hired by Puck,
a humorous political men's magazine, and drew
 hundreds of cartoons for them.  She was America's first
 female illustrator and cartoonist.
The same year Rose moved to New York, her father purchased
an abandoned homestead in Taney county that consisted
of two log cabins connected by a breezeway called a dog trot cabin.
 He brought his wife and 5 children to live there.  When Rose
came to visit in 1894, she fell in love with the wild Ozark woods,
 and named the homestead Bonniebrook.  Around 1898 the
 construction of the home began.  As Rose's income grew,
so did Bonniebrook.  It was the first home in the county to have
 electricity, a telephone and an indoor bathroom.

 Rose drew a series of pen and ink drawings of
 nudes, fauns, centaurs and other mythical creatures.
 She met with the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin
 (The Thinker), in France and was influence by his
works.  Several of these drawings became large
"The Embrace of the Tree"
"The Fauness"
The grounds at Bonniebrook are quite lovely & we
enjoyed a pleasant stroll along the path to the family
We spotted some tiny fairy houses.
We came across Rose's favorite 
sketching rock
and discovered the family root cellar.
We started the house tour in the kitchen and made
our way through 2 floors of rooms.  Our docent was
Larry Palmer, the caretaker of Bonniebrook.  He
was so knowledgeable & told such interesting
stories, I forgot to take many photos.
Kewpies were used to advertise all sorts of products from
Eastman Kodak cameras to the new product called Jello.
Rose's bedroom.
This bedroom belonged to her sister
Famous authors, poets & artists of the day were
frequent visitors to Bonniebrook.  We were quite
 taken with this print of her friend and poet Kahlil
Gibran.  Rose's original 1914 pencil and watercolor,
 resides in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Rose's third floor "treetop studio" was a favorite
of ours.  
Rose had several exhibitions of her "Sweet Monsters"
drawings and sculptures in Paris and the United States.
"There are some people who have found some of my
pictures revolting.  They hurt the eye.  But, I am not
dejected--like Poe.  I am in love with magic and monsters
and the drama of form emerging from the formless."
Rose O'Neill
The original of the brush, ink and
pencil below called "The Implacable Will" also
resides in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Rose had been a successful artist and illustrator
for 20 years before she dreamed of the little
impish cupids she named Kewpies, while
taking a nap in her studio.

 The home was full of family photos and examples of Rose's
artwork.  These are a few of my favorites.

From the home we strolled to the museum and fine art exhibit.
The first Kewpies debuted in the 1909 Christmas
issue of the Ladies Home Journal.  They appeared regularly in
magazines for the next 25 years.  Rose patented and trademarked
 the Kewpie in 1913.  The first Kewpie dolls were made in Germany of
hand painted bisque & came in 12 different sizes.  Each one had
a paper heart label on it's chest.  Rose told the artists, "I want you to
take the most care with the tiniest of the Kewpies because those will
be the Kewpies that poor children can afford to buy."
 The Kewpie was the first doll to be marketed and
sold world wide.  The Kewpie made Rose a millionaire.
The little character was eventually surpassed by another
Missouri artist's creation....Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. 

The Kewpies had many adventures in Kewpieville.
They were shy, helpful, kind & good at solving problems.
There were many characters, Chief Wag,
 Gardener, Army, Polka Dot, Cook, Carpenter and Blunderboo
just to name a few.  There were even MerKewps
 (half mermaid).
 In 1914 Kewpie Hottentot was introduced.
Kewpies are known for their little
top knot, starfish like hands and
protruding little tummies.
They began to wear clothes the 1920's.

All Kewpies look either to the left
or the right, to make them appear shy.

  Scootles traveled the world and told
the Kewpies wonderful stories.
Kuddle Kewpie, the first washable doll.
After WWII Kewpies were made in America.
Kewpiedoodle Dog was modeled after
Rose's Boston terrier.
Large store display Kewpies.

 Ho Ho's

Kewpies appeared on just about every
product imaginable.

Rose authored several novels and children's books.

In 1912 Rose had an idea for a paper doll printed
 on both sides, the first of it's kind, and created the
 Kewpie Kutouts.
Kewpie comic strip.

The fine art section was full of Rose's
wonderful original artwork.
 We certainly had a great day!
If you make your way to my neck of the woods,
      don't miss the "gem" of the Ozarks, Bonniebrook.
Special thanks to Susan Scott, president of the
 Bonniebrook Historical Society for allowing me to
take photos for you to enjoy too!
Joseph Kallus, founder of the Cameo Doll Company,
helped sculpt and develop the original Kewpie doll.  After
Rose's death in 1944, he acquired the patent, copyright and
trademarks to Kewpie.
In 1982 at the age of 89, Joseph sold all the rights and
original molds to Nancy Villasenor of Jesco Dolls.
Today, they are sold by Charisma Brands.
I took my nieces and daughter to Bonniebrook
when they were girls, they still have
their little bisque Kewpies from our visit.
My daughter received a special Kewpie as a gift
from her Grandmother, on her 10th birthday.

She's a beautiful 14 inch blue eyed
Jesco porcelain Kewpie.
To me, a Kewpie is not a Kewpie
unless she's naked.
Rose O’Neill’s Bonniebrook is located in the beautiful
 Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri, just 9 miles
north of Branson, on US Highway 65.
Be sure to visit the official Bonniebrook site.
 Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, & Homestead


  1. Thank you very much for giving a tour and narrative on this historic lady. I enjoyed it so much Sherri.

  2. Thanks for furthering my education (you've done that more than you know). One can certainly glean a ton of inspiration from those enterprising artists, such as Rose O'Neill, who put their talents to work. Thanks for a great story!

  3. Yes, I enjoyed all the pictures and my visit via your blog. It was great. I can imagine the fun you all had going through the house and grounds. I do love the little Kewpies. You put a lot of information into this and it was something and someone I never knew. thank you.

  4. Thank you Sherri for the wonderful tour! It has been many years (1999) since I last visited Bonniebrook, your post has brought back many fond memories. In fact my daughter had chosen this site for her wedding, vows were to be said on the steps of the beautiful mansion. Things changed and this did not happen, instead she was married on a bluff over looking Tablerock Lake, quite beautiful as well. Your documented information is amazing, Rose O'Neil was indeed a talented artist, will have to visit again sometime soon. Another place on interest is in Mansfield, MO the home Laura Ingalls Wilder. Museum and her home is a delight, one of my favorites as well.

  5. What a magical place. Thank you so much for the hard work of bring this post to us. You should work as a researcher for a museum. You're good! This was a rare treat.

  6. Very, very interesting! I think my sister had a Kewpie doll, which would have been in the early '40s. But I'm not sure it would have been a true Kewpie; could there have been look-alikes?

  7. I have had the enchanting pleasure to visit "Bonniebrook " also and your photos are just awesome/ I took some also and this was a visit for my Mother's 80'th Birthday when we visited her in MO. I grew up there but now live in North Carolina. Rose's home and estate grounds plus burial area were just too beautiful and great inspiration feeling. Her upstairs studio was so comfortable as if she just stepped out for a moment.

    Everyone should try to visit who is anywhere near this area of Missouri around Springfield, Branson,Table Rock Lake ( home of original Bass Pro Shop, also in Springfield) and mentioned above,"Laura Ingalls Wilder" Home. I also went there and got outside photographs, they were closed. You will probably see Amish wagons around Mansfield also, we always do!
    Thanks for sharing your visit! I sure enjoyed mine also!
    Smiles, Cyndi


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