A doll with a storied past.

Author:Dodson, Angela P.
Position:Buy Golly! - Book review

Buy Golly! The History of Black Collectables by Clinton Derricks New Cavendish Books September 2005 $35, ISBN 1-872-72728-x

Somewhere between when a cover image of this book (first published in the United Kingdom) was posted on Amazon.corn and when the book was actually published in the United States, the photograph changed. So did the subtitle. An upbeat, happy-faced--almost embraceable--but stereotypically jet-black cloth doll replaced an offputting version of the same genre, holding a tray of even less attractive ones. They all bear trademark big red lips, white bug eyes, wooly hair and a certain spiritedness. (As a collector who owns some fairly over-the-top black memorabilia, my threshold is very high.)

More telling, I suspect, is the change of subtitles from "The History of the Golliwog" to "The History of Black Collectables." The previous name was probably more accurate, although this volume does deal with a few other types of collectibles (the preferred spelling in U.S. dictionaries). Americans probably would be less familiar with the term "golliwogs," which loses something in the trans-Atlantic crossing.

What exactly is a golliwog, you might ask? Whatever they are, according to Derricks and his extensive research, many British people were quite fond of them, having grown up with the notion of the doll as a character in a beloved series of children's books, much as we would regard Raggedy Ann, perhaps. The name itself was made up by the original author/illustrator of the series, Florence Upton, who based it on a doll she had brought to Britain from America.

In the first book, The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls, published in 1895, the doll was caught up in adventures with two Dutch dolls. The black doll was an instant hit, surpassing its fellow toys in popularity, leading to many more adventures, a total of 13 from 1895 to 1909.

Although the external appearance may not have been flattering, the golliwog (originally "Golliwogg') was given unfailingly positive attributes, Derricks says. "while adventurous and daring, he was impeccably behaved and well-mannered, always treating his companions courteously." This is probably why...

To continue reading