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Where Do The Kewpies Live? by Jean Cantwell

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

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?

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