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
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 £2.00–£3.00.
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.