Kewpies short for Cupid the Roman God of Love are the iconic cherubic chubby wide-eyed nude dolls with the curly Q hair designed by Rose O’ Neill that first appeared in her comic strips in 1909. The figures were so popular they were first sold as paper dolls followed by bisque dolls manufactured in Waltershausen, Germany (1912-15).
Companies caught on and used them in their advertising campaigns to promote Jell-O, Colgate and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. By 1914 O’Neill was the highest paid woman illustrator in the USA and that was just the beginning: In 1927 the Hickman High School in Columbia, MS, made “Kewpie Doll” their mascot, one was placed in the 1939 New York World’s Fair time capsule and in 1958 Perry Como and Frankie Vaughan recorded “Kewpie Doll” that became a hit in the USA and in Europe. More recently “Kewpie Doll” references have been made in episodes of Seinfeld and The Good Wife.
The Kewpie Doll embroidery patterns depicting them in various activities date back to the 1930s. Generally the blocks were made into quilts and most often all of the blocks would be embroidered in a single color of floss that is the case of two such quilt tops I’ve completed quilted for two clients.
Recently I acquired a Kewpie quilt where the blocks are embroidered in primary colors and the quilt also has floral designs in the corner blocks and two bonnet girls. This quilt includes Kewpie images I have never seen in Kewpie quilts: Kewpie in an airplane, Kewpie dancing in front of a large radio and a baby Kewpie kicking his legs. I started researching Kewpie images on-line and discovered another Kewpie quilt circa 1930 from Pennsylvania with the same or very similar Kewpie, floral and bonnet girl designs also created in primary colors! Knowing bonnet girls and floral designs were popular too, if a magazine or pattern manufacturer had suggested mixing up different types of patterns and included color pictures for the creator to follow? This will take more research and I will report if I find out more.
Until then I will put photos of the Pennsylvania Kewpie and the Leo, Indiana Kewpie quilt on the Born Again Quilts Facebook page so you can check them both out!
Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilts a quilt restoration studio and gallery located at 4005 South Wayne Ave. You may contact her at 260-515-9446 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.bornagainquilts.com