|Cuckoo for Kewpies: The adorable love messengers are turning 100 years old.|
This Kewpie doesn’t look a day over a year old! Surprisingly, the tiny character is celebrating its 100th birthday as a doll.
September is the anniversary of some personal milestones for me—my birthday, my first-ever post-college full-time job, deaths of my parents, the Word Trade Center attack—but it’s also the month that honors the arrival of a doll that is often dismissed and overlooked. I’m chatting about the Kewpie doll. We all know them, and, most likely, if you’ve ever attended a carnival or a state fair, you might have won one or two during your windmill pitching attempts at knocking over a row of milk bottles.
The Kewpie (as a doll) emerged in September 1912—one hundred years ago. In all of the decades that have followed, it has managed to attain its wide-eyed, small-nosed, smirking-lipped appeal.
Created by illustrator Rose O’Neill as a bit of comical artwork that appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, the Kewpies were a hit when they arrived in 1909. Three years later, and they were available to be purchased in bisque versions. In 1913, they were able to be scooped up in celluloid treatments.
After World War II, Kewpies were made by Effanbee in hard-plastic, and their popularity continued to thrive.
Nowadays, Kewpies are sometimes considered a bit of nostalgic fluff. Because of their amusement park pedigree, some people look down on them. Honestly, they treat this doll as if it is a bit of carny hokum. Because it was a doll that could be won—though not easily won, if you have a pitching arm like me—it seemed not to have any value. It was taken for granted or denigrated when written about. The Kewpie, which was a tribute to Cupid, the god of love, has (sadly) been dissed more often than kissed by contemporary jaded collectors.
That’s why it is so heartwarming that the Kewpie is (hopefully) gaining new admirers with its manufacturing by Charisma. Billed as “An American Treasure,” that tagline certainly rings true about this doll with the devilish demeanor and angelic, cherubic cheeks (http://collectibledolls.charismabrands.com/Products_All.aspx?CatID=202&cs=k).
The new version of Kewpie comes in its “au naturel” state—sans vestments—as well as attired in outfits that are cute and charming, heroic and unexpected.
Charisma Brand has Kewpies that are clad as firemen and farmers, sailors and police officers, brides and grooms, flowers and witches! It is truly a bouquet of imagination and delights.
As the country continues to evolve and spin forward at ever-accelerating rates—there seems to be a new Apple phone launched every other week, and don’t get me started on the variety of Kindles and NOOKS—the lure of the Kewpie might fall to the wayside.
I’m hoping that the same way that Raggedy Ann and Andy seem to always avoid being hurled into history’s rag bin, the Kewpie will continue to flourish as a conduit to a much simpler and more innocent time.
Yes, it does seem rather contradictory: an undressed gadfly being emblematic of a more wholesome period, but it’s true. The Kewpie, which originated before World War I, smacks of a time when sweethearts might steal a peck on the cheek or a fleeting kiss on the lips. It is a messenger from an era of ragtime, rumble seats, and wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.
It’s true that the America of the Kewpie’s origin bears only a passing resemblance to today’s world—for many of us, it would be an America that is totally unrecognizable. (We’re talking before feminism, civil rights, relaxed social mores, and other lifestyles that we all participate in and take for granted.) However, during a month that is steeped in so much personal sadness for me, as well as national mourning on 9/11, the Kewpies are a great way to see how America has stood the tests of time for more than 100 years.
Perhaps in another hundred years, the Kewpies will still be around. Of course, by then, they will be holograms and able to float and flit through the air. But, hopefully, even in this brave new world rendering, they will continue to display a healthy amount of mischief, good humor, and ripening romance.Oh, and that adorable cresting-wave on top of the head, of course! It’s a hairstyle that defies gravity and logic. Just one more reason why the Kewpies are indeed an American treasure.
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The Jones Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed upon one recipient per year. This award was created in 2002 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the teddy bear, with the first recipient being Steiff, a German-based plush toy company known for its high quality and prices.
The Lifetime Achievement recipient must be or have been involved in some aspect of the doll and/or teddy bear field for a minimum of 25 years. The recipient may be an individual, partnership, corporation, company, author, artist, marketer, historian or any other industry professional. Lifetime Achievement Award nominations may be made by previous recipients or members of the LAA committee.
To qualify as a nominee, entrants must meet the following criteria:
The Lifetime Achievement Award has been presented to the following individuals and companies since its inception:
2003 Hildegard Gunzel
2004 Alexander Doll Company
2005 R. John Wright
2006 Wendy Lawton
2007 Virginia Turner
2008 Toy Shoppe
2009 no award presented
2010 Helen Kish
2011 no award presented
2012 Maggie Iacono
2013 Heidi Plusczok
2014 Jack Johnston
August 8, 2014 - Blackall Associates Inc. is proud to announce the winner of its Summer Heat Photo Contest. The contest drew entries from around the world. Masterpiece Doll collectors sent in a special photo showing how their Masterpiece Dolls were enjoying the summer heat.
You haven’t seen a toy show until you’ve seen this one. Six buildings! Over six hundred exhibitors! Exclusively toys and dolls and children’s playthings on display everywhere! This is the show everyone always says they intend to visit, and now is the time to do just that. Collectors say the Chicago Toy Show really is the largest in the entire world. They are correct. Collectors say they find toys at this show that are never seen anywhere else. Correct again.
19 April 2014 – 5 October 2014
A special exhibition will take place at the Toy Worlds Museum Basle to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Japanese-Swiss diplomacy and friendship.