Thursday, January 28, 2016

What's In A Name: The Story of the Golliwog

“If you had to choose between art and the slogan, or between history and the slogan, you might as well choose the slogan and have done with pretending even to care about art and history. The reduction of all things to politics must reduce them, in their own right, to irrelevance.”
-Anthony Esolen

Sledding Fun
(Notice the Golliwogg in Fido's mouth)

What, might you ask, is a Golliwog?

Based on a character in a childrens' book,
  the Golliwog was a hugely popular toy 
in Great Britain during
the earlier half of the 20th century.

However, in today's world of 
political correctness run amok,
this once beloved toy of little girls and boys
is considered racist against black people.

I believe this was never intended to be.

A rare Golliwog book by Florence K. Upton

According to various Internet sources, the
racial slur "wog" derived from
the word, "Golliwog" and was
first used in Great Britain in
the late 1920's.
However, this particular racial epithet was
 a common slang word used by British soldiers
for dark-skinned people in places like Africa,
 Egypt and India
during Victorian Colonial rule,
years before Florence Upton's birth
and the debut of her first Golliwog
book in 1895. 

British-American Illustrator
Florence Kate Upton

In a fashion similar to
 the creation of America's
beloved Raggedy Ann doll,
Golliwog came into being
 after Florence Upton discovered
five old wooden Dutch dolls and a
black rag doll left behind in an attic. 

 The black doll, whom she named, Golliwog, 
became the hero in her series of books.
The books were very successful, yet
for some reason, Florence Upton
never patented the character she created.
 As a result of this oversight,
unscrupulous toy companies, and childrens'
book writer, Enid Blyton,
  took advantage of the situation
choosing to depict Golliwog as 
 an ill-mannered and deceitful character, while other
writers used him to poke fun at and mock the
perceived mannerisms of black people,
copying the insensitive racial caricatures popular in
the United States of America at the time. 

 Florence Upton truly despaired over
the misrepresentation of the beloved character she
had created from her own imagination.

"I am frightened when I read the fearsome etymology
 some deep, dark minds can see in his name," she said.

Tragically, Upton died from complications
  following surgery  on October 16, 1922.
 She was 49 years old.
 Over the years, her grave has been the target of
vandals, whose reasons for desecrating her
final resting place remain unclear.
Fortunately, due to a grant from Great Britain's
Heritage Lottery Fund, the headstone on her grave
 has finally been placed upright and is being restored.

Unfortunately, the controversy over her
 beloved creation, Golliwog, continues to this day.

Adorable Handmade Golliwog Dolls

As a life long doll collector, I would love to
add a few adorable and rare
 (at least here in America) Golliwogs
 to my family of dolls some day.

 Golliwogs in a shop window in Glasgow, Scotland


  1. Hi there.. wasn't there a Gollywog as part of the label of a marmalade made in the UK in the 1940's ~ ?

  2. I believe so. He was quite popular in Great Britain during the earlier half of the 20th century.