Golliwog History

The Origins and History of Golliwogs began during the British occupation of Egypt in the late 1800’s, Egyptian workers wore the letters W.O.G.S signifying that they were Working On Government Service. These labourers were nicknamed Ghuls (the Arabic word for Desert Ghost) by the British Troops.
Children in Egypt played with black stuffed material dolls, nicknamed Ghuliwogs, which were often purchased by the soldiers returning to England. This name would eventually become the Golliwogs we know today.


Then Florence Upton starting writing and drawing.  She was born in 1873 in Flushing, New York, United States, the daughter of English parents who had emigrated to the United States three years previously. Following the death of Upton’s Father, she moved back to England with her Mother and Sisters when she was fourteen. There she spent several years drawing and developing her artistic skills. Upton began to sketch out ideas for a children’s book, using “penny wooden” dolls as her models. However, without a central character on which to hang the tale, progress came to a standstill. Her aunt, Kate Hudson, found an old toy in her attic that had belonged to the Upton children, left behind from an earlier visit. This toy, which she named Golliwogg, provided inspiration, and the first story was completed in 1894. The publishing house of Longmans, Green & Co. offered her a contract and The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg was published for Christmas 1895.. 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.” A product of the blackface minstrel tradition, the Golliwogg had jet black skin; bright red lips; and wild woolly hair. He wore red trousers, a shirt with a stiff collar, red bow-tie, and a blue jacket with tails – all traditional minstrel attire.


Upton’s book and its many sequels were extremely successful in England, largely because of the popularity of the Golliwogg. Upton did not trademark her character, and its name, spelt “golliwog”, became the generic name for dolls and images of a similar type.[5] The golliwog doll became a popular children’s toy throughout most of the 20th century, and was incorporated into many aspects of British commerce and culture;[6] for instance, some of Enid Blyton‘s books feature them, often as a villain and sometimes as heroes. Upton’s Golliwogg was jovial, friendly and gallant,[5] but some later golliwogs were sinister or menacing characters.


From humble beginnings the Golliwog was loved by so many then and today.  The Golliwog was made by Carton Ware into plates, cups and saucers and teapots.

In 1910, John Robertson, of the jam manufacturing family James Robertson & Sons, decided it should be the company’s mascot, which it remained until 2002 Robertsons Jam manufactured beautiful pins which are a collectors item today. Golliwogs are manufactured worldwide and people sew, knit and crochet them.

Collected from several websites including Wikipedia