Golly History

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Gollywogg History


What Is The True History Of The Gollywog?



Gollywogg History - The earliest Gollywog is the hero in books of verse written by Bertha Upton in the 1890's, and illustrated by her daughter Florence’s Golly Corner. James Robertson & Sons, the U.K. preserve manufacturers with such as jams and marmalade, which was founded in 1864, used the Golly as their trademark. It was in the 1920s, that they started to issue brooches [also called pins or badges] carrying the Golly image in various themes and occupations. Gollywogg Books then appeared, such as: The Gollywogg at the Sea-Side; the Gollywogg books were the creations of Florence Kate Upton, the scenic-illustrator, and her mother, Bertha Upton, who supplied the verses accompanying each ‘Will's Golly Page


Due to what became a racist slur of and about the ‘Golly’, as it was so often called, sent the poor Golly underground; later, it was declared to be “Not Politically Correct”; so, do we say the same about white dolls and have all dolls removed from the shops and homes and send one and all, underground? The Gollywog was never racist; it was just a lovable doll! So, now is it the time to put your Gollywogs into storage, to hide them away, to evade detection by the American ‘CIA’; ‘FBI’; British ‘MI5’, or ‘MI6’. I’m not sure, and I know the British or the American governments are not sure either, or one of the daring few who have evaded capture and have brought out our gollies to show the world that we are not racist, but we do enjoy showing off our very own Gollywog. Oh dear, we have gone off track, so let’s get back on track shall we?


The earliest Gollywog is the hero in books of verse written by Bertha Upton in the 1890's, and illustrated by her daughter Florence; in total, both the mother and daughter worked together on a total of twelve illustrated books, all featuring the gallant little character and his adventures traveling to such exotic destinations as Africa and the North Pole, accompanied by his friends, the Dutch Dolls.


Though the original Gollywog character was a kindly chap, always lending a hand to those in trouble, later, and sadly, authors portrayed him very differently as mischievous and over the years, he became a rascal, was often up to no good, and even portrayed as a mean spirited character. Consequently his reputation slid and because of his poor reputation and dark color, he began to be considered of poor standards, bad for children’s education, and now, ‘politically incorrect’. But, there again, which cartoon these days on TV, or for that matter, video games, they are based around violence and hatred; Golly is peacefully quaint compared to the violence offered to our children today. Even going back, wasn’t it Bluto who was always trying to rid the world of Popeye in order to have Olive Oil? How many times has Bugs Bunny been on the hit list, or the Wiley Coyote trying to kill off the fast and clever Road-Runner, and I could go on and on, but I won’t!


The past few years, possibly because of the centennial of the creation of the Gollywog, he has again become popular, this time not with children so much as adult collectors and Gollywog artists; although, we who make and create them, are never ceased to be amazed at the age groups that purchase the most humble Golly these days. Nevertheless, let’s get back on track again.


The original books were published by Longemans, Green and Company in England; because the books were published and distributed in England, the Gollywog's fame and popularity spread there rather than in New York, the home of Florence Upton. English children and children of the commonwealth countries are those most likely to have heard the stories and played with the dolls, though they were known also in Europe and as far as Russia.


The earliest Gollywog dolls were hand made rag-dolls make by mothers and grandmothers in the image of the storybook character, made with loving hands for loving children. As early as 1910 Gollywogs were mass produced, but they were not produced in large quantities until the 1950's. Gollywogs are now commercially produced in England, New Zealand, Germany, and the U.S. Gollywog artists and creators can be found around the world. Items decorated with pictures of Gollywogs have been made over the years and these are now avidly collected. Post cards, greeting cards, dishes, perfume bottles, and playing cards are a few of the items that can be found picturing Gollywogs. So, the ever so humble Gollywog has regained his reputation as an adventurous, cheerful, kindly and mischievous fellow, who will bring a smile to all who make his acquaintance, or as in our case, her acquaintance.

Another Rosy faced replacement with a complete lack of dress sense; they replaced Golly with Mr. Sparks who ran the local garage. He just seems to be a bad tempered loony; would you buy a used car from that man? Note: Golly used to own the garage in the later Noddy Books, but the Noddy books are another story.


So Where Do Gollywogs Really Come From?


Florence Upton

Creator of the Famed Gollywogg


Florence Upton (Right) is credited with creating the Gollywog; born in New York to English Parents in 1873; upon the death of her father in 1889, she and her Mother, Bertha, returned to England and in 1895 at the age of 22, Florence illustrated her first book, written by her mother, called the Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and it involved a Gollywog. The book was a children's story about Florence's own childhood dolls. These dolls, including the Gollywogg, are now housed at Chequers, the British Prime Minister's country residence.


Florence is credited at naming the Gollywogs, by altering the word Pollywog. Pollywog was a dialect word meaning wiggle head, which meant ‘tadpole’; the word was originally ‘pol’ meaning head, and ‘wiggle’, becoming waggle, becoming wag, becoming wog, over the many, many years. Some say Gollywog was used due to the somewhat surprised look on the doll's face, as if it was saying "Golly", which is an English exclamation of surprise. Florence and her mother had 13 Gollywogg Books published between 1895 and 1909; they were an incredibly popular children's book. Florence Upton died in 1922, and was buried near her home in Hamstead; on her gravestone are engraved the words.


Far left is an illustration in the Florence Upton book: ‘Two Dutch Dolls in 1895’.


Left are Florence Upton's childhood dolls, Peggy and Sarah Jane, with the Original Gollywogg. These dolls are now housed in a glass case at Chequers, the British Prime Minister's country residence. Apart from the popularity in the 1890's by the sale of Florence Upton's books.


Enid Blyton


Born in London 11th August 1897; Enid Blyton was a teacher and writer, and published her first book in 1922 called Child Whispers, a book of poetry for children, and then in 1938, she then published her first series of longer books for older children, such as Mr. Galliano's Circus and the Secret Island. Over the following six years, almost all of her major series were begun, the birth of Noddy, The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Adventure Series, The Secret Series, Malory Towers, St Clare's, The Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair and many other that still grace many a bookshelf to this day; sadly, Enid Blyton died in 1968, she had become the most prolific author of all time, and with more than 700 books and 10,000 short stories, it would be a daunting challenge to equal her prolificness in her authorship; it was recorded that she had sold more than 400 million copies.


Noticed something yet? Florence Upton's Gollywoggs were spelt with a double ‘g’, whereas thirty years later in the 1940's Enid Blyton's Gollywogs had only one ‘g’; so, during the Second World War, the Noddy series commenced, and the Gollywogs became a living thing to millions of children all over the world throughout the 1940's, 1950's and into the 1960's; some of the Naughty Gollywogs lived in the Dark, Dark Woods near Toyland, but many of them lived in Gollywog Town. Sadly though, it was Enid Blyton that got the Gollywog a dark, mischievous and bad name!


Where did Gollywogs Go?


For some reason or another, in the 1980's and beyond, the Gollywogs became an endangered species. Whatever the reason, whether it was the climate, or their habitat, they were becoming very scarce; take for example the Noddy Book Titled, Hurrah for Little Noddy; if you look carefully, you can clearly see two Gollywogs on the book's front cover, along with Mr. Plod, Big Ears, Noddy and another policeman. Sadly, in the reprinted version, bottom right, the Gollywog has gone, and in his place is a Moonface type character looking more frightening than poor Golly ever did. The Gollywogs have completely disappeared from the book altogether, were they allergic to the newer style of ink, or is it the new processes and chemicals in the manufacturing of the paper that is detrimental to their health? Or, is it the sign of the times with so much racism and hatred; what happened to peace, love and harmony?


On closer inspection it could be something else. Above on the right is a picture of Gollywog Town, with happy Gollywogs everywhere, even a Gollywog Statue; yet in the reprinted version, the town has been over run by monkeys, the statue has been changed, and they even call the town Monkey Town; there is not one Gollywog in site, not even one Gollywog in the whole book, So, Could the Gollywogs and Monkeys have swapped homes? Somebody monkeying around perhaps? One thing I do remember, I have seen people bitten and attacked by monkey, but never have I seen such of a Golly; is that a sign of the violent society we live in today, not the time of the good-old Golly!


Endangered Species


The Government has now officially declared the Gollywog as an Endangered Species, they are finally a protected species, and have their own National Forests and Dark Woods to live in far away from the prying eyes of the general population here in Australia, the Victorian Government has set aside the Chiltern Box Ironbark Forest for the protection of endangered species. It is not like Enid Blyton's Enchanted Forest, it is a real life Australian Endangered Species Forest; now together in the Chiltern Forest live the nearly extinct Regent Honeyeater, the Square Tailed Kite, the Swift Parrot, the Turquoise Parrot, the Scarlet Chested Parrot, and the Fantastically Dressed Gollywog, but if you visit, you have to look very carefully and quietly as they are so afraid, but they would like things to be as they were, as I am sure that is what they are told as they grow up, of the times when every child had their very own Golly.


Chiltern is a beautiful, quaint, and quiet little historic gold mining town, approximately 280 kilometres north of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and it is completely surrounded by the Chiltern Forest. Some of the more adventurous Gollywogs have left the safety of the forest to come to town in an attempt to see the world, but can you help them? These extremely well dressed Gollywogs may be found at the Chiltern Gollywog Gallery, inside Duffas Dinkum Den D'Arts. I have heard that they have been seen as far south as Willunga and Goolwa in South Australia; too, they have been seen on rare occasions at small country markets in and around Adelaide, down south no less, so if you really want to see one, then you now have a rough idea where you may find them.


What we have endeavoured to do, is not to be negative, the idea here is to consider things that have been banned or that are likely to be banned in the near future; it is not our intention to upset any ‘minorities’ or for ‘majorities’, and there are no intentions here to be racialist, for racial differences are addressed in an honest and forthright manner.

Written in the Daily Mail in the March of 1999, written under the heading of “A Sticky End At Last For Golly”, written by ‘James Clark, Home Affairs Reporter’, was the article below:


  • The Famous Golliwog on Robertson’s jam and marmalade jars may finally be forced into retirement.
  • For years, anti-race groups have campaigned for Golly, who first appeared in 1910, to be scrapped
  • Now they may get their way following the latest row – over a Royal Dalton figurine for the Millennium.
  • The Golliwog is among a collection of 20th Century advertising ‘Icons’ including the Fox’s Mint polar bear; the Guinness Toucan, and the John Player special sailor. But despite the range being the most popular made by Millennium collectibles, protestors are demanding it be scrapped because Golly is racist.
  • Gerry German of The Working Group Against Racism in Children’s Resources, told the black newspaper ‘The Voice’: “I find it appalling that any organization in this day and age can produce anything which would commemorate the Golliwog. It is an offensive caricature of black people. The word “Wog” stems from Golliwog; when children are exposed to this it is devastating.”
  • A spokesman from Robertson’s, of Manchester, said yesterday: “We have kept Golly under constant review for some time because of a way a minority feel about him. He’s still very popular. Each year we get more than 340,000 requests for Golly badges; since 1910, we have sent out more than 20 million. The sad thing is that unlike so many modern children’s characters, Golly is non-violent, positive and cheery. I can’t see how he inspires racist language. Nobody ever called for the banning of Bugs Bunny – that’s what children called peers with protruding teeth. But some people seem determined to see Golly as something he never was. It may be his time is coming to an end.”
  • The Robertson’s icon was moved from the front to the back of the jam-jars more than 13 years ago after ‘racism’ protests.
  • Miranda Kogill of Millennium Collectibles said last night, “The figurines are sold out now. We’ve had hundreds of letters from older people who say Golly reminds them of their youth.”

It begs a question, “When and where will all this racism stop?” We have been making and selling Gollywogs for some years, and we have had customers black and white and all colours in between, adults to children, and I might add, from all religious persuasions, so when do we stop looking at skin colour, let’s stop condemning people over their religion; we do after all, live on a little tiny marble in this vast universe; we have our world to look after and that will take each and every one of us; yes, all of us, working together for the survival of our planet Earth for our future generations; that is more important than arguing over a colour of a doll!

When we grew up, men worked together, drank together, socialized together and we brought our children up to believe that it is not the colour of the skin that makes a person good or bad; we shared our time with all people of all persuasions in England and Australia. There has never been, nor do we believe that there has ever or will ever be, any intention of any wrongdoing when we hope that the good old Gollywogs, will once more hold their heads up high and will be found at the side or in the arms of all children throughout the world; so, let’s teach our children to love one another and remember that we have only a limited time on this Earth, so let us, along with all dolls be they black or white, coffee or cream, learn to live in peace and harmony!

Before I depart from all infamous use of the name Gollywog, I would like to add something to which as yet, I have found no true concrete evidence, and that is what was believed to be the original name of the Gollywog. It is said that while the Egyptian workers, refered to as W.O.G.S., their children were supposed to have been often found with little darkish dolls which were called Ghuliwogs and sometimes given or soled to Brittish soldiers to take back to their children in England; this in itself would lead to the supposition that the W.O.G.S. were nicknamed 'Ghulies or Ghuls' but, I have yet to gain any definite proof of such. From all the above it may or may not be derived that what Egyptian children's Ghulidolls may have eventually been renamed Golliwogs, but I will keep searching to prove either way as if you deserve anything, it should always if at all possible, be the truth!



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