Monday, October 17, 2011
A Brief History of Robert The Doll
Robert the Doll was made in 1904 as the life size effigy of the 4 year old son of the Otto family here on the island of Key West. Stuffed with straw and meticulously hand sewn by one of the family servants of Caribbean origin, the doll was given to Robert Gene Otto as a birthday present. Upon receiving the doll, the boy gave the doll his first name “Robert” and from that day forward he would only answer to the name “Gene” Otto. Often they were seen playing together and even overheard having conversations with one another, with Robert the Doll answering him back. When strange events started to happen Gene would swiftly respond by saying ”Robert Did It!”
As Gene grew older he kept Robert the Doll by his side, even building Robert his own room. Gene would commonly place him in the third floor turret room window to keep him company while he painted. Peering out, Robert the Doll rapidly became the topic of stories of the neighborhood children who would play on the streets below. With Gene dedicating so much of his time to his doll, Robert was repeatedly the focus of many a quarrels within Genes marriage.
Over the years Robert quickly became Key Wests original blame doll. Whenever anything bad would come about, you could hear Gene and others say Robert Did It!
In 1974 Gene died and his wife Anne moved back north leaving behind the doll in the attic. When the house was sold Robert the Doll came to live at the Fort East Martello Museum, where he resides now.
Visitors can see him daily throughout the year at the Fort East Martello Museum, 9:30am - 4:30pm. Many guests pay homage to Robert the Doll, bringing him tokens of their affection while others write him fan mail and apology letters. Famous in his own right, Robert the Doll is known around the world. His legend continues to grow and live on today with claims of mischief and perhaps misfortune if you dare disrespect Robert him. No matter what your belief you too will find yourself saying Robert Did It!!!