Golliwogg.co.uk - An independent guide to Golliwogs


An independent guide to golliwogs, including golliwogg history, golly dolls, gollie books, and gollywog collectables

Golliwogs & Robertson's Jam

A classic Robertson's Jam Golly badge from the 1970s

James Robertson & Sons, a British manufacturer of jams and preserves, began using the Golliwog as its trademark in the early 1900s. According to the company's promotional literature, it was in the United States, just before World War I, that John Robertson (the owner's son) first encountered the Golly doll. He saw rural children playing with little black rag dolls with white eyes. The children's mothers made the dolls from discarded black skirts and blouses. John Robertson claimed that the children called the dolls "Golly" as a mispronunciation of "Dolly." He returned to England with the Golly name and image.

By 1910 the Golly appeared on Robertson's product labels, price lists, and advertising material. Its appeal led to an enormously popular mail-away campaign: in return for 'Golly' tokens from their marmalade, Robertson's sent brooches (also called pins or badges) of Gollies playing various sports. The first brooch was the Golly Golfer in 1928. In 1932 a series of fruit badges (with Golly heads superimposed onto the berries) were distributed. In 1939 the popular brooch series was discontinued because the metal was needed for the war effort, but by 1946 the Golly returned.

Despite much criticism during the 1960s and '70s, they simply changed their logo's name to 'Golly', and continued to stand by their trusty mascot. Consequently, the collecting of Robertson's Golly memorabilia is a hobby in itself, with a vast array of promotional material and items to be collected.

In 1999 a Robertson spokesperson said, "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." Serious Robertson's collectors may have thousands of Golly badges in their collections. Nevertheless,Robertson's Golly badges still remain highly collectable, with the very rarest sometimes selling for more than 1,000, and even comparatively common and recent badges being worth 2.003.00.

Other Robertson's Golly memorabilia includes such things as clocks, watches, tableware, porcelain figurines, jewelry, aprons, knitting patterns, playing cards, dolls, children's silverware sets, pencils, erasers, and, of course, the Golly tokens themselves.

Robertson pendant chains were introduced in 1956, and, soon after, the design of all Robertson Gollies changed from the Old Golly with pop eyes to the present Golly with eyes looking to the left. The words "Golden Shred" were removed from his waistcoat, his eyes were straightened, and his smile was broadened.

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