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Jesco Dolls

Jesco Imports Inc. started as an import company in Los Angeles that specialized in dolls. In 1982, the president of Jesco, Nancy Villasenor, met with Joseph Kallus, sculptor and designer of the first Kewpie dolls. They agreed to a licensing arrangement under which Jesco would produce Kewpie dolls from the original Kewpie molds. Kallus died suddenly in a car accident soon after this meeting. Kallus' daughter wanted nothing to do with her father's doll business, so she signed over the rights for Kewpie and the Cameo Doll Company, Kallus' doll factory.

Jesco first released Kewpie dolls in 1983, following the original Cameo Doll Company molds. Included in this release were a reissue of the 27-inch Kewpie from 1966, Yesterday's Kewpie, a 16-inch Kewpie dressed in historical outfits, and Kewpie Goes, a 12-inch Kewpie in various theme outfits. These dolls were slightly smaller than the original versions as Jesco cast the dolls from the original Kallus molds, whereas the original dolls were cast from stock molds.

Jesco created reproductions of the original Kewpie dolls until 2011. Villasenor had made a promise to Kallus before his death that his original molds would be used to make the new Kewpie dolls. This process was more expensive, but provided reproductions that were truer to the original designs.

Quick Facts

  • Joseph Kallus acquired the rights to Kewpie directly from Kewpie's creator, Rose O'Neill. O'Neill hired Kallus to create a mold for Kewpie, turning the childlike animated character into a doll
  • Kallus' original sculptures were first used by the Kestner company in 1912
  • Joseph Kallus founded his own doll company, the Cameo Doll Company, in the '20s and produced dolls from his own designs

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