A classic Robertson's Jam Golly badge from the
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
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.