The origins and history of Golliwogs.
The Golliwog history you read online, is generally the well established stories of English soldiers, Enid Blyton and everything old world British. Over the years, I have read many articles about the origins of these black faced cloth Gollie Dolls (or as we always call them - Golliwogs). Quite a few manufacturers add tags with the history to the Golliwog when making them available for sale. No matter what information seems to be disseminated, there is always controversy. My personal history with all things Golliwog goes back to the late 1960's in England when Robertson Jam used the Golliwog in all of their branding. They started this back in 1910 and continued until 2002, when the Golliwog was retired due to the political correctness pressures from outside the business.
Robertson used to give Golliwog badges away as part of promotions, and I fondly remember collecting the whole series when I was very young. I also had a small collection of Golliwog toy dolls, given to me by various family members. There were varying sizes and qualities in those days and they were freely available to purchase from most tedy bear or doll toy shops. It was probably around 1973 when I first remember the influx of immigrants from former British territories like the West Indies and India and Pakistan, that the word "Golliwog" and the associated (wrongly) word "wog" were bandied around as racist. I guess, the tenuous link then carried forward to today, where we see the sale of Golliwogs banned in some countries (Thankfully not Australia - though they might try!)
The following is from another well know toy website that used to sell Golliwogs and was forced to discontinue their sale due to outside pressure and threats to the business.
The history of the Golliwog began during the British occupation of Egypt in the late 1800's, Egyptian workers wore the letters W.O.G.S signifying that they were Working On Government Service. These labourers were nicknamed Ghuls (the Arabic word for Desert Ghost) by the British Troops.
Children in Egypt played with black stuffed material dolls, nicknamed Ghuliwogs, which were often purchased by the soldiers returning to England. This name would eventually become the Golliwogs we know today.
We do know that the popular authors Florence Kate Upton and Enid Blyton featured Golliwogs in many of their books, and these were all very popular, and do take us all back to a more innocent time, but I think that the Roberston company was mainly repsonsible for bringing Golliwogs caricature to the general public more than anything else.
Here at our Golliwog shop, we will continue buying and selling Golliwogs, not as a big "finger" to the politicised damnation, or the people who try to stem the flow of free thought in todays "social media" driven society, but in memory of a more innocent time in our lives, when a carefully crafted colourful black faced doll was part of a fun, happy and healthy childhood. So, if anyone asks where you can now buy a Golliwog doll for a baby, child or for their own cherished collection, without judgement, please send them here to buygolliwogs.com.
Other links with information about Golliwogs.
- The WIKIPEDIA Entry.
- This article about a Toowoomba, Australia, Chocolate shop selling Golliwogs has some interesting commentary at the bottom of the page.