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Beret and mittens set

Beret and mittens set

  • Place of origin:

    United Kingdom (made)

  • Date:

    1952-1953 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bates, Anne, born 1920 (maker)
    Lister & Co Ltd (designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-knitted wool

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Elizabeth Pollock

  • Museum number:

    B.4-2016

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This matching beret and mittens set was hand-knitted by the donor’s mother, Anne Bates, in 1952-1953. The garments were made using a pattern published by the textile manufacturer Lister & Co., which has also been supplied by the donor. The design shows five front-facing 'Gollys' on the beret, with one also on the back of each glove. The mittens are united by a length of cotton tape so the wearer would not lose them. The garments are sized for a 3-5 year old child.

This is an object which can tell us a lot about changing attitudes to race throughout the 20th century, allowing us to explore what the 'Golly' means culturally and historically, since it has been viewed simultaneously as a harmless nursery rhyme character and a dangerous racial stereotype. The 'Golly' was a popular children’s character for many decades, still beloved by many older people and by collectors, especially of merchandise produced by Robertson's jam company, whose mascot was the 'Golly' from 1910-2002. It is also a good comparison piece for modern and contemporary children’s clothing featuring well-known characters from television and literature.

Physical description

Child's beret and mittens, hand-knitted from cream, red, blue, yellow, brown and green wool. The beret is formed of five panels, each of which has a front-facing 'Golly' character, wearing a red jacket with yellow collar and green buttons, and blue trousers. The figure has green eyes and a red mouth. The mittens each have one 'Golly' of identical design, and are united by a length of black cotton tape. The wrists are decorated with lines of blue, red, green and yellow.

Place of Origin

United Kingdom (made)

Date

1952-1953 (made)

Artist/maker

Bates, Anne, born 1920 (maker)
Lister & Co Ltd (designers)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-knitted wool

Dimensions

Width: 22.5 cm beret, Length: 15 cm mittens

Object history note

Knitted for the donor by her mother, Anne Bates, in 1952 or 1953. The donor, Elizabeth Pollock, recalled: "Gollywogs were a favourite toy. We all collected the Robertsons jam labels to get the gollywog badges."

Mrs Pollock gave this item to the Museum in 2016 [2016/581].

Historical context note

The original 'Golliwogg' character was based on a soft toy with exaggerated African features owned as a child by Florence Upton, author and cartoonist. This toy, and the Dutch Dolls also featured in the tales, have been in the MoC’s collection since 1997 (see B.493-1997). Golliwogg featured in thirteen popular illustrated tales jointly written by Upton and her mother Bertha. The character was never patented, so was borrowed by many authors and companies, who adapted his friendly, brave and cheery personality to their own ends, some resulting in him becoming devious, intimidating and cruel. Famously, Robertson’s jam company adopted the Golly as a mascot in 1910, retiring him in 2002. As a generic character, having always black skin, bright clothes and woolly hair, Golly enjoyed huge popularity in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. However, the Golly’s obviously African features and negative depiction has meant it has come to be seen being casually racist, in the same vein as minstrelsy and other formerly popular ‘humorous’ depictions of black people and black culture.

Descriptive line

Child's beret and mittens set, 'Golly' pattern, designed by Lister & Co., hand-knitted by Anne Bate, 1952-1953

Production Note

Knitted from Lister's pattern number 1066.

Materials

Wool

Techniques

Hand knitting

Categories

Children & Childhood; Children's clothes; Knitting; Black History

Collection

Museum of Childhood

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