The Story Behind the Golliwog (Golly) Dolls

Written by Jae Jones

It is quite possible you have heard the word , or , but never gave to much thought to it.  Well, here are the facts about Golliwog  and how it came to be. Golliwog started out as a character in children’s books in the late 19th century. It later evolved to a rag type doll that was extremely popular in Australia and Europe until the 1970s. As seen in the photo the doll has black skin, rimmed white eyes, red clown lips and frizzy afro-styled hair.

The doll was first introduced in 1873 by . Upton was the daughter of English parents who had emigrated to the United States. After the death of her father, she moved back to England with her sisters. In order for the fourteen year old to afford tuition to art school, she illustrated a children’s book entitled The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg.  The 1895 book included a character named the Golliwogg, who was first described as “a horrid sight, the blackest gnome”, but who quickly turned out to be a friendly character, and is later attributed with a “kind face.


The book was a success and so were so many other books that also came after. After the publication of Upton’s book the term golliwog was used to reference the toy and used as a slang word for black people. The golliwog contributed enormously to the spread of blackface in Europe. Later dolls, literature, china toys, and other items were included in  the blackface trend. Of course, many people argue that the dolls are racist. But, that didn’t stop a British jam manufacturer, James Robertson & Sons in using the golliwog called Golly as its mascot in 1910.  To this day the golliwogs can still be found in Australia by the toy manufacturer Elka.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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