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Guide to the Rose O'Neill Collection
1900-1953, undated
 PR 369

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on October 04, 2018
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: O'Neill, Rose Cecil, 1874-1944
Creator: Beals, Jessie Tarbox
Title: Rose O'Neill collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1900-1953, undated
Abstract: The collection includes a small number of documents concerning the artist and poet, Rose Cecil O'Neill (1874-1944), best known for her creation of the Kewpie cartoon character. Among the documents are eight original drawings by O'Neill, three photographs of O'Neill (one of which was taken by Jessie Tarbox Beals), and the checklist of O'Neill's 1922 exhibition at Wildenstein Galleries in New York. Other documents are programs and other print matter with O'Neill's drawings and poetry, clippings, and a reproduction of a poster illustrated with O'Neill's Kewpies advocating women's suffrage.
Quantity: 2.21 Linear feet in one document box and two flat files
Call Phrase: PR 369

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Biographical / Historical

Rose Cecil O'Neill (1874-1944) was an American artist, author and poet perhaps best known for her creation in 1909 of the cartoon character Kewpies. O'Neill was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Nebraska. In her youth she took an avid and successful interest in drawing; as a teenager she worked as an illustrator for Omaha newspapers. Recognizing her talent and potential, O'Neill's father took her to New York City in 1893, where she joined the staff of Puck. O'Neill's father returned to the Midwest, settling in the Ozarks of Missouri on a property he called Bonniebrook. O'Neill would visit Bonniebrook often over the years, eventually purchasing it and living the last years of her life there.

Through the first decade of the 1900s, O'Neill continued to work as an illustrator, including for a novel of her own and for those of her second husband, Harry Leon Wilson, an assistant editor at Puck (they married in 1902 and divorced in 1907). In 1909, O'Neill's Kewpie creation premiered in a comic strip in Ladies' Home Journal, later appearing in Good Housekeeping and elsewhere. In 1912 a German firm began manufacturing Kewpie dolls, and O'Neill traveled to Europe to oversee production. The Kewpie success made her a millionaire. Among the properties she purchased with her earnings was an apartment on Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, consistent with her emerging reputation as a bohemian and suffragist.

Over time, the nature of O'Neill's work shifted, becoming more experimental. She returned to Europe, staying in Paris from 1921 to 1926. Her work was exhibited in Paris in 1921 and at the Wildenstein Galleries in New York in 1922. By the late 1920s, though, she had returned to the United States. With the Kewpie craze faded, tastes in commercial art shifting, and the impact of the Great Depression, O'Neill's fortune slowly disappeared and by the late 1930s she had returned permanently to Missouri, where she died of heart failure in 1944.

(The above was based largely on O'Neill's Wikipedia entry.)

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Scope and Contents

The collection includes a small number of documents concerning the artist and poet, Rose Cecil O'Neill. Eight original drawings by O'Neill are in the collection. One of these is dated January 1900; the others are undated. They are listed individually in the container list.

Three original photographs of O'Neill are in the collection, including one by Jessie Tarbox Beals. Print matter in the collection, such as magazines and an exhibition checklist, include examples of O'Neill's drawings. A reproduction of a poster advocating women's suffrage also includes a drawing by O'Neill.

A copy of a supplement to "Poetry Folio" of 1928 has five of O'Neill's poems. Completing the collection are a few newspaper articles by or about O'Neill.


The collection is arranged by document type.

For the drawings, titles enclosed in "quotation marks" are original titles found on the drawing. Titles in [brackets] were supplied by the processing archivist.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • O'Neill, Rose Cecil, 1874-1944

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Drawings (visual works)
  • Photographs.
  • Programs (documents)

Subject Topics

  • Exhibitions -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Poetry.
  • Women artists.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers by appointment only.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to reproduce any Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections holdings through publication must be obtained from: Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 270. Fax: (212) 579-8794.

Preferred Citation

The collection should be cited as: Rose O'Neill collection, PR 369, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Materials

A photograph of O'Neill reclining on a sofa, taken by Jessie Tarbox Beals, can be found at N-YHS in the Jessie Tarbox Beals photographs (PR 4).

Some works by O'Neill also received by N-YHS in 2018 are held by the N-YHS Museum Department.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Rose O'Neill Foundation, care of David O'Neill, August 2018.

Processing Information

Initially processed by archivist Larry Weimer in August 2018, with drawings added in October 2018.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Folder: Flat File Drawing. [Untitled. Portrait of a Woman]

Scope and Contents

Pen. Not signed.

Folder: Flat File Drawing. "Austrian Officer" and "Square built American Ideal"

Scope and Contents

Two drawings on one sheet. Pen. Both signed.

Folder: Flat File Drawing. "Ramming them back into their desks."

Scope and Contents

Drawing of a schoolboy, perhaps misbehaved, being pressed back into his desk chair by a schoolgirl; an apparently well-behaved boy looks on in surprise. Pen. Signed. Noted also as "Property of R. O'Neill Wilson, Day P.O., Taney Co., Mo. (To be returned)"

Folder: Flat File Drawing. [Untitled. Man in Suit Gazing at Painting of a Woman]

Scope and Contents

Noted on back "For Story--Not Published." Pencil. Signed.

Folder: Flat File Drawing. "Arthur Davisson Ficke. Alcibiades"

Scope and Contents

Portrait. Pencil. Not signed.

Folder: Flat File Drawing. "A European Beauty"

Scope and Contents

Profile portrait. Pen. Signed. Original penned title has a pencilled insertion to make it "A typical European Beauty," but the entirety is crossed out in a different pencil, with the notation "paint out."

Folder: Flat File Drawing. "A quaint change in the masculine form"

Scope and Contents

Contrast of two men in differing dress clothes and bearing. Pen. Signed.

Folder: Flat File Drawing. [Untitled. Woman, Boy, Girl, Toys]

Scope and Contents

Dated on back as "Jan. 16/1900--1 pm", then dittoed except for time of "4" pm. Pen. Signed as O'Neill Latham.

Box: 1 Folder : 1 Photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals.

Scope and Contents

Signed by Beals. 11x7 inches with mounting. Captioned on back as "Rose, N.Y." O'Neill pictured standing at open window, facing camera.

Box: 1 Folder : 2 Photograph by Paul Thompson

Scope and Contents

Captioned "Rose at No. 12 Fifth Ave., Summer 1914. Painting Kewps. They look like ones for Woman's Home Companion paper dolls." Photographer's stamp: Paul Thompson, 10 Spruce Street, New York City.

Box: 1 Folder : 3 Photograph by Lorraine Studio, Inc.

Scope and Contents

O'Neill pictured with a group of people. Captioned as "at 62 Washington Sq [Square], N.Y." People are identified by first name: Thorbjorn, Birger, Matta, Callista, Inger, Patty (mostly obscured), Dhan. Photographer stamp: Lorraine Studio, Inc., 47 West 42nd Street, New York.

Box: 1 Folder : 4 "Actors' Fund Fair Program"

Scope and Contents

Souvenir of the Fair, also referred to as the Actors' Fund Bazaar, held 12-21 May 1917 in support of the Actors' Fund of America. The title page, page 25, includes a drawing by O'Neill.

Box: 1 Folder : 5 "Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture by Rose O'Neill"

Scope and Contents

Checklist for O'Neill's exhibition at Wildenstein Galleries. The checklist, referred to as a catalogue, has an O'Neill drawing on the cover and opens with a translation of the introduction from the catalogue of O'Neill's Paris exhibition.

[1922] March
Box: 1 Folder : 6 "International Studio," Volume LXXV, No. 299 (25th Anniversary Number)

Scope and Contents

Issue includes the article "Rose O'Neill's Sculptured Drawings" by Edythe H. Brown, with eight illustrations, on page 63.

1922 March
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Exposition of Women's Arts and Industries. Program

Scope and Contents

Program for the 5th annual exposition, held at the Hotel Astor in New York from 27 September to 2 October, 1926. A drawing by O'Neill is on the cover and she is noted on page 36 in the list of "The Woman's Who Who."

Box: 1 Folder : 8 "Poetry Folio. Rose O'Neill Supplement"

Scope and Contents

Sixth Issue. April-May 1928. Four page supplement is inscribed by O'Neill to the Johnses. The cover page has an O'Neill drawing with her poetry filling out the other three pages.

Box: 1 Folder : 9 "The Book Dial." Volume VI, No. 3, Summer 1929

Scope and Contents

The issue includes a drawing by O'Neill on the cover and six drawings on pages 18-22.

Box: 1 Folder : 10 Women's International Exposition. Program Cover (photocopy)

Scope and Contents

Photocopy of the program cover for the exposition sponsored by the Women's National Institute, held at the 71st Regiment Armory in New York, 2-8 November 1953. A drawing by O'Neill is on the cover.

Box: 1 Folder : 11 Newspaper Clippings

Scope and Contents

Photocopies of two articles: "Women who Lead the Way" from the New York Times (20 February 1921) and "Cameras and Corsets" from Modern Photography (1942?). The latter is about Jessie Tarbox Beals, but includes one of Beals's photos of O'Neill.

1921, 1942?
Folder: Oversize Newspaper Article by O'Neill. Oversize

Scope and Contents

An oversize newspaper clipping of an article written by O'Neill comparing the characters of Americans and Europeans, illustrated with a photo by Jessie Tarbox Beals and drawings by O'Neill.

circa 1914?
Folder: Oversize Newspaper Clippings. Oversize

Scope and Contents

Three clippings: Evening World (19 June 1914) and Evening Sun (27 June 1914) about O'Neill and her observations upon returning to New York, illustrated with photographs of her and drawings by her; and Evening World (21 March 1916), referencing O'Neill in an article about short hair for women, illustrated with a photograph.

1914, 1916
Folder: Oversize Poster (reproduction). Women's Suffrage. Oversize

Scope and Contents

Color reproduction of a poster supporting the right of women to vote, illustrated with Kewpies.


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