top of page

Guide to Antique Dolls


Source: January 2001 • DOLL READER • The Ultimate Authority, Pages 46-50


Dolls of all-bisque were made as early as the 1860s, but the luxury dolls with wigs and glass eyes date from about 1867 on. These little dolls were a development of the French market, but production soon switched to the German porcelain factories, such as Simon & Halbig, which made these luxuries for the French trade. The J.D. Kestner doll factory also was widely involved in the all-bisque market, with many wonderful designs. Studying the production details of these small dolls proves how amazing they are to have been produced in such small sizes-sleeping eyes with real eyelashes, wonderful wigs, detailed body modeling, special joints and intricate footwear. Of course, the size makes them very popular with collectors who just do not have space for large dolls in their collections. It's always easy to squeeze in another tiny all-bisque doll!


COMMENTARY: This wonderful doll with a swivel waist is the most rare and desirable of the all-bisques. She is strung with an elastic cord from her neck through the waist joint to a hole between her legs. What a marvel of early innovation in doll construction!

PRICE: No comparables available estimated at more than $10,000; may have minor chips at stringing holes, joints and elsewhere.


• Swivel neck, pegged shoulder joints

• One cupped hand, one open hand

• Swivel waist, molded navel

• Pegged hip joints

• Molded white ribbed stockings with scalloped tops, magenta garters

• Black molded boots with scalloped tops and molded side buttons


• Pale early bisque

• Pouty face with protruding upper lip, closed mouth with white space between lips, multi-stroked eyebrows, painted eyelashes, brown sleeping eyes

• Blonde mohair wig­


COMMENTARY: Another in­novation by J.D. Kestner is this doll with joints at the knees. She is pegged through the hips and again at the knees with the elastic cord coming through the sole of her shoe. She is very desirable to all-bisque collectors, but not as rare as the swivel waist model. She is marked 1 on her head and legs. She can be found with pink, gray, blue or green boots.

PRICE: $4,500, may have minor chips at stringing holes, joints and elsewhere.

FEATURES: Blonde mohair wig, multi-stroked eyebrows, painted eyelashes, gray sleeping eyes, closed pouty mouth witl1 Up shading line, swivel neck, pegged shoulders and hips, jointed knees, molded boots, painted green garters.


COMMENTARY: This is a very rare model by Simon & Halbig; p 1-haps only one other is known to exist with jointed knees. They are strung w:i th ela tic through holes on both sides of the leg parts. Since she has no painted upper eyelashes, she probably had real ones, which have disintegrated. With her cork pate, she was apparently made for the French trade.

PRICE: No comparables available, estimated at $5,500.

FEATURES: Original blonde mohair wig, cork pate, tapered one-stroke eyebrows, brown sleeping eyes, closed mouth, chubby cheeks, pegged shoulders and hips, jointed knees, bare feet with detailed toes.


COMMENTARY: This is a hard-to-find model, very desirable to col­lectors, but not rare. This model comes with either a stiff or swivel neck. Of course, the swivel model is the most desirable. It is marked with the mold number 112 on head and shoulders.

PRICE: Perfect condi­tion, $3,250.

FEATURES: Original mohair wig, tapered one-stroke eyebrows, brown side-glancing sleep eyes, painted eyelashes, watermelon mouth, swivel neck, jointed shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, molded brown one-strap shoes, blue garters.


COMMENTARY: This is a very desirable doll, a fairly rare version with wood ball­jointed elbows. She is marked on her back BTE, a French abbreviation for breveté, which means that the patent is registered. This model may also have jointed knees.

PRICE: Naked, may have minor chips, $4,500; all original clothing and wig, $5,500.

FEATURES: Original wavy blonde mohair wig, thin one-stroke eyebrows, blue glass eyes, painted upper and lower eyelashes, tiny closed mouth, jointed shoulders and elbows, straight hands, pegged hips, long slender legs, bare feet.

The boudoir doll is one of the most interesting dolls made of fabric. It went by the name “woman's bedroom/bed Doll” which suits its place in the house. At the beginning of the 20th century in Europe, people decided that children aren't the only ones who need dolls. Young women did too, but their dolls were more intricately designed.

Boudoir Doll in Movie
A scene from Latest Parisian Lingerie (1916)

Boudoir dolls are very chic accessories, so small ones are pretty rare and majority of the boudoir dolls ranging from 20 to 36 inches height. The dolls could be created from a variety of materials — including inexpensive cotton linen to muslin, silk, felt and suede. The head of the doll was usually made of papier-mâché, composite or pressed felt with painted features. Some dolls had composite rotating head and waist. Limbs of boudoir dolls were made of composite and occasionally celluloid. But more commonly the limbs as well as the body were made of cloth stuffed with cotton, sawdust and even with straw. Boudoir doll wigs were created from silk, mohair or even human hair and many of them had long, beautiful eyelashes made of camel or human hair.

The boudoir dolls were made only by the most skilled craftsmen and dressed only by the most famous fashion designers, such as Mademoiselle Lanvin.

The most popular dolls were created in France. At the beginning of the 20th century the famous Parisian couturier Paul Poiret began to spread the idea that dolls are essential to the female persona and should be a fashionable accessory. As a result, many dolls with long bodies were produced at that time. The dolls had small golden high-heeled shoes. Large eyes with long eyelashes, silk hair, long and delicate shape of limbs all these were supposed to symbolize every woman’s desire for beauty. Since the boudoir dolls had soft bodies and did not have any joints they were very flexible and could pose. That is why they often were placed on a bed in a boudoir. That is how they got their name.

To: The Kewpies

1 Bonniebrook

Bonniebrook Lane

Kewpieville (Branson), Missouri 65616

Where do the Kewpie live? The above address would surely reach them. Nobody knows how long they have lived there, but Kewpie lovers know Rose O'Neill discovered them when she was living at Bonniebrook in 1908.

The author, Jean Cant­well, describes a Kewpie to Barbara Walters on a segment of the "Today Show." Mrs. Cantwell is a past presi­dent of the International Rose O'Neill Club and a frequent speaker at Kewpie events. She was the keynote speaker for the United Federation of Doll Clubs, Inc., convention in Kansas City in 1982. Photograph courtesy of the "Today Show."

Source: April 1989 • DOLL READER • The Ultimate Authority, Pages 110-115


It takes only a bit of imagination to think a few venturesome Kewpies still cavort in the magic glen. When the house at Bonniebrook is rebuilt, the plan includes peopling or Kewping the mansion with varied collections of the charming Kewpies and O'Neilliana.

Some people call Miss O'Neill the creator of the Kewpie doll. In spite of the evidence that she was an extremely creative person, she alluded to her "discovery'' as the Kewpies invaded her "Bird Cafe," her third-floor art studio, in the family borne in the untamed woods of the Missouri Ozarks. According to her autobiography, Charmed Life, they came to her in a dream. She loved the fantasy of their existence and considered them to be real spirits. It was her privilege and that of many who revere her work. In the end, what is the distinction of a "real spirit" as opposed to a "fanciful spirit"?

Perhaps the Kewpie spirits or sprites, according to your personal taste, still live in the forest valley at Bonniebrook. Impervious to the need of food other than human love, which brought them to reveal themselves to Rose O'Neill, and undaunted by heat or cold as proved by their lack of clothing or sunburn lotion, Kewpie sprites can survive in the Ozark woods with no more shelter than to loll under the fragrant petals of wild roses or un­der the shady trees that border the single lane into the O'Neill homestead.

Rose O'Neill Slro!led across the manicured lawn of Bonniebrook, her mansion in the Ozarks woods. The third­floor balcony off her art studio was the" Bird Cafe." Photograph courtesy of Paul O'Neill.

On the other hand, Kewpies that were created by Rose O'Neill in the image of those who shyly ought her loving nature, need shelter, The lus­trous tone of blossoming cheeks on German bisque, the soft invitation of huggable fabric Cuddle Kewps and the cheery wisdom of the selfless Kewpie Band that occupied the Kewpieville of fragile magazine pages along with precious two-sided paper Kewpie dolls must have shelter to be preserved.

Rose was a prodigious producer. There are myriad of Kewpies in vary­ing materials, shapes, attitudes and sizes with a wealth of accompanying ornaments, if there were only Kewpies, 5½in (14cm) tall made of German bisque, the desire to collect Kewpies could be quickly quenched. With hun­dreds of collectors, some who have sought original O'Neill Kewpies over five decades, with thousands of types and styles to seek, the quest continues. Every year since 1968, collections of Kewpies have been displayed at Kew­piesta in Branson, Missouri. Each year, new discoveries of original O'Neill Kewpies and new information about Rose O'Neill and the Kewpies are shown, treasures to be enjoyed by all. In addition to other inhabitants and components of Kewpieville, Rose created completely different styles of art. Her "Sweet Monsters," produced primarily as paper art, were also inter­preted as statues, the tallest being a formidable nine feet. National public recognition came first to Rose through charming romantic magazine illustration and eye-catching advertisements. Delicate old paper is also the medium, which holds the fascinating books and stories that reveal the fanciful nature of her artistic mind.

The homesite of Bonniebrook was sketched by Pearl Hodges for guests at the 1973 Kewpiesta held each April in Branson, Missouri, the home of the International Rose O'Neill Club and the Bonnie brook Historical Society. The family cemetery and the size of the house are indicated. Photograph courtesy of Robert Gibbons.

It is the paper material, which enhances the Kewpie's most distinguishing characteristic, the Kewpie mile. The Kewpie smile states and demonstrates the Kewpie philosophy. What other doll bears such noble philosophy? "Do good deeds in a Kewpish way, without pomposity." The Kewpies led the rich little girl to share Christmas toys with the poor little girl. They convinced the Grandfather to give up his grumpish ways. They taught the little boy bully to give up teasing dogs. They advocated eating healthful food and conserving energy, but most of all, Kewpies became the symbol of selfless love.

"Loving and Sharing" was the slo­gan in 1975 when the Kewpie "Hug­gers" were chosen for the theme doll of Kewpiesta. It was that year that the members of the International Rose O'Neill Club solidified the pattern to share information about their collec­tions and their knowledge of Kewpiana in a loving manner. Loving and sharing continue to be an important part of Kewpiesta.

The east side of the mansion faced onto the bubbling creek, Bonniebrook. Photograph courtesy of Paul O'Neill.

Patrick left his family in Nebraska when he decided to search out a better place to live in the Ozarks. Bonniebrook is the name he gave to the acreage nine miles north of Branson that he acquired when it was abandoned by a homesteader. Bear Creek border the land on the south side. A feeder creek that rises from a spring runs through the Ozark rock farm. As it ripples over the creek rock and meanders across the road that approaches the house, it is sometimes necessary to dance lightly across un table stepping stones to cross the creek. This musical brook is as pretty as its name implies. Having acquired the deed to Bonniebrook, he brought Meemie and the children to Missouri. Rose had already moved to New York City to pursue her fortune as an artist, but she soon came to visit her family at Bonniebrook. They lived in a double cabin. The Ozarkers called it one cabin with a dog nm between. She wrote of hanging her fancy doodads from New York behind a sheet where the dirtdaubers found a place to nest.

In time, Patrick, with the able help of his son, John Hugh, began to build the three-story mansion in the woods. Patrick's knowledge of palatial homes in the East and in West Europe a sufficient to design the architecture. Rose's success in New York demanded an art studio for her, and she helped finance the construction of Bonniebrook, including her "Bird Cafe," the studio on the third floor.

Bonniebrook was the source inspiration for the major portion of Rose's work. Frequently, she drew the illustrations for magazines and novels published in New York at her easel in the "Bird Cafe." She wrapped them around a smoothly whittled stick in preparation to posting them to New York by leaving them in the fork of a designated tree, the "Fairy Tree," for the postman on horseback to pick up. It wa after a long night of work to meet a magazine illustration deadline that she fell asleep on her daybed and discov­ered the Kewpies in her dream.

The Bonniebrook Historical Society (Box 263, Branson, Missouri 65616) has completed phase one in rebuilding Bonniebrook with the construction of the footings and basement walls of Bonniebrook. Reconstruction is under the leadership of the current president, Lois Holman. Photograph courtesy of Lois Holman.

Rose produced several series of Kewpie pages for various magazines. A series for The Ladies' Home Journal was called "Kewpieville." The only hu­man in the series was Scootles, the Baby Tourist. Scootles was soon inter­preted as a doll. There is no doubt Rose was inspired to select a tourist as an appropriate character, because she was accustomed to tourists as a part of the daily routine in the small town of Bran­son. Fishing and other water activities on Lake Taneycomo brought tourists to Branson from the time it was estab­lished shortly after the turn of the century. Silver Dollar City theme park, the Shepherd of the Hills Pageant and the world's largest country western live theatre district have increased the influx of tourists to rank Ozark Mountain Coun­try as the third largest in Missouri.

Rose's art studio at Bonniebrook was furnished with the famous daybed where she dreamed the Kewpies, wicker and leather chairs, Indian rugs, first edition books written by her famous friends and her own artwork. Photograph courtesy of Paul O'Neill.

Many years later, when Rose had returned to live at Bonniebrook again, to repair her fortune, she created the Ho-Ho doll. It was not one to be dressed, but rather, to inspire. As the Kewpie inspires to selfless love, so the Ho-Ho inspires to wisdom and laughter.

Although her first novel, The Loves of Edwy, was written when she lived in Nebraska, her second, The Lady in the White Veil, was written at Bonniebrook and much of the symbolism of Garda and The Goblin Woman can be traced to her family relationships at Bonniebrook.

It was on her first trip to Bonniebrook, by train followed by a horse and wagon ride through the shifting shadows at Bonniebrook, that she had the first inkling of the primordial shapes that were to become the draw­ings of her "Sweet Monsters" and the subsequent statues. Bonniebrook is Rose's last resting place. In a private cemetery, five of the O'Neill family lie.

Of all her homes, Bonniebrook holds the strongest tie to Rose O'Neill.

Rose O'Neill died in 1944. Bonniebrook burned in 1947.

The inspiration for Rose O'Neill's major artworks came when she lived at Bonniebrook. She paints a Kewpie as she warms at the fireplace of her Ozarks home. She wore a Japanese kimono over her original mantle designed by her sister, Kallista. Photograph courtesy of Paul O'Neill.

No matter how prodigious an artist may be, if her work i not consciously preserved, as with the house at Bonniebrook, it will deteriorate or disap­pear. In 1966, an organization with Pearl Hodges as founding president was formed to honor Miss O'Neill with a celebration called "Rose O'Neill Days," April 1 through 8, 1967. The local group grew to become the Inter­national Rose O Neill Club, with the stated purpose, “To preserve the mem­ory of Rose O'Neill and inform the public about her works and to promote the cultural arts." Under the constitu­tion, the International Rose O'Neill Club was authorized to preserve the memory but not to preserve artifacts or own property; consequently when it became possible to lease the Bonniebrook homesite for $1.00 per year, another non-profit organization was formed with a constitution that would permit ownership of property. Many of the members of the Bonniebrook Historical Society and the International Rose O'Neill Club are the same people working toward a common goal, to rebuild Bonniebrook.

On April 20, 1984, the Bonniebrook Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fund raising was set up in three phases. The first has been completed.

In 1987, the foundation and basement walls on the brook side of the house were poured. The footbridge, which the O’Neill called “The Alarm”, was replaced.

Phase two will see the construction of the exterior framed building and roof. Phase three provides for the interior finish. Numerous fundraising activities of the Bonniebrook Historical Society and a grant from Gannett Newspapers, Inc., brought the $12,000 for phase one and approximately $82,000 of the pro­jected $120,000 planned for phase two.

The Bonniebrook Historical Society will benefit from antique shows in Springfield, Missouri. "The One Rose S. W. Missouri's Antique Shows helping to rebuild Ro e O'Neill's home, Bonniebrook" will occur two times a year, usually in May and October at the University Plaza Trade Center. Cliff Harral on, with the help of his wife, Helen, is the manager of the shows. With the generosity of Mr. Harralson, the loving giving of such devoted mem­ber as Mrs. Anna F. Stretcher, and others who contribute to the building of the dream, Rose's home, the home of the Kewpies, Bonniebrook will be rebuilt.

Kewpies will abound inside, displayed with O'Neilliana galore, and the Kewpie outside that only Rose O'Neill could see, will delight the members of the Bonniebrook Historical Society and the International Rose O'Neill Club at Kewpiesta and tourists by the droves as they add still another pleasure to their vacation trip to the Ozarks, Branson, or is it Kewpieville, Missouri?

bottom of page