Seeking the History of Googly Eyes

Retro Staff 1  Comment

There are some things we’re itching to know… and yet, the Internet has finally failed us on several fronts. So now we’re reaching out to our dear readers to tell us:

Who invented Googly eyes?

Googly eyes (aka jiggly eyes) are most commonly known as small plastic craft supplies used for eyeballs. They have an outer shell with black dots that move around. Plenty of cartoon characters and puppets (including Muppets) are also described as having googly eyes, despite the fact that most of the inner component doesn’t move. So we can’t even find the 100% true definition of googly eyes – but let’s just say they’re big, white and feature black pupils that at least appear to move.

Barney Google / Snuffy Smith

Barney Google appeared sporadically over the years – with his big, googly eyes.

The earliest, widely publicized reference we could find for the term “googly eyes” is based on an old comic strip called Barney Google (later named Barney Google and Snuffy Smith). It was created in June 1919 by cartoonist Billy DeBeck, and inspired the 1923 hit song, “Barney Google (with the Goo-Goo-Googly Eyes)”. Barney Google himself has long since been phased out of the comic strip (he’s appeared but twice since 1996) – Snuffy Smith is currently the main character.

Googly eyes are silly-looking, which is why they’re a top pick for toys, puppets and games. Many refer to dolls that don large eyes with moving pupils – even with natural looking eyes – as googlies. So there’s obviously some confusion as to what makes an eye a googly eye.

Until we find the real history, we can only rely on what we know: Googly eyes are big, typically round, and typically silly. They have helped  “bring to life” characters and toys for years.

Finger Eyes

Finger Eyes: instant googly eyes puppet (Retro Planet)

Googly eyes don’t even need a detailed face in order to be identified as actual eyes, which ranks them among the simplest forms of entertainment for both young and old.

There are other definitions for googly eyes – including describing someone in love or starstruck. Nonetheless, finding the root of any of these definitions has proved difficult. If you find any definitive resources of – in our case – these funny little eyeballs please let us know!

Last updated: Aug 29, 2012
Filed under: Retro Memories Tagged with: humor, retro kids