In the 1850’s, children had it rough. They were expected to aid in cooking, chores, and often worked in factories to help their families make ends meet. Recreation and entertainment were low on the list of necessities, but, if you were lucky, your parents bought you a Frozen Charlotte or (for boys) a Frozen Charlie.
Charlotte, sometimes called a pillar doll, was a small porcelain figure, ranging from under 1″ to 18″+, and “slept” in an included coffin or decorative box. The doll was one solid piece with no articulation and wore no clothes. They were purchased for a penny and were very popular in Germany and were marketed as the perfect playmate for children during bath time (I’m guessing only because they would float in water). In America, the doll came to be associated with a poem, written in 1840, by Seba Smith about a young woman who froze to death while riding in an open sleigh on New Year’s Eve. The name stuck.
“O, daughter dear,” her mother cried,
“This blanket ’round you fold;
It is a dreadful night tonight,
You’ll catch your death of cold.”
“O, nay! O, nay!” young Charlotte cried,
And she laughed like a gypsy queen;
“To ride in blankets muffled up,
I never would be seen.”
The small dolls can now be purchased on auction sites like eBay for infinitely more than they cost in 1850. Most are damaged, missing arms and legs, and rarely come with the “blanket” or coffin box they were originally sold with. You can sometimes even score a lot of five or ten dolls, some headless and more limbless, if you fancy that sort of thing. Just be sure to do your research prior to purchase as many reproductions exist. This might help. http://www.ebay.com/gds/Frozen-Charlotte-And-Charlie-Antique-Doll-Buyers-Guide-/10000000000915405/g.html
In Britain, the dolls were often baked into puddings and cakes as a surprise for children during Christmastime. I’m not sure what child would find this sort of “surprise” amusing, but I’m guessing the Wednesday Addams type.
Do you have a Frozen Charlotte in your oddities collection? Would you purchase one of these little dolls? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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