Frozen Charlottes

Frozen Charlottes

These somewhat mangled charlottes were offered for sale on etsy for steampunk altered art. The article suggests that they were seconds or just broken finds from factory refuse.

One variation of yesterday’s dessert called a charlotte is the Frozen Charlotte, which takes its name, oddly enough, from a small china doll, which takes its name from a cautionary tale about a foolish girl, possibly based on a true story.

The name comes from a rather gruesome poem by  Maine humorist and editor Seba Smith [1792-1868] and set to music by William Lorenzo Carter,  about a girl who froze to death on her way to a ball because she wanted to show off her new gown—a cautionary tale for the New England winters. The New York Observer reported on February 8, 1840, that a girl froze to death on her way to a ball on January 1, 1840. The full text of Frozen Charlotte is here , but I’ve included a couple of stanzas:

He called her once, he called her twice,
She answered not a word;
He asked her for her hand again,
And still she never stirred.

He took her hand in his – O, God!
‘Twas cold and hard as stone;
He tore the mantle from her face,
Cold stars upon it shone.

 Then quickly to the glowing hall,
Her lifeless form he bore;
Fair Charlotte’s eyes were closed in death,
Her voice was heard no more.

He eventually dies of a broken heart.

Bumble Bees and Butterflies with Brenda‘s blog describes these dolls. Frozen Charlotte is a name used to describe a specific form of china doll made from ca. 1850 to ca. 1920. The name comes from the American folk ballad Fair Charlotte, which tells of a young girl called Charlotte who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride and froze to death during the journey.

The Frozen Charlotte doll is made in the form of a standing, naked figure molded all in one piece. These dolls may also be seen described as pillar dolls, solid chinas or bathing babies. The dolls ranged in size from under an inch to 18 inches plus. The smallest dolls were sometimes used as charms in Christmas puddings. Smaller sizes were very popular for putting in doll’s houses. Occasionally versions are seen with a glazed china front and an unglazed stoneware back. This enabled the doll to float on its back when placed in a bath. They are also made in bisque, and can come in white, pink-tinted, or, more rarely, painted  black. Some rare examples have molded chemises.

Frozen Charlie

The boyish hairstyle is just painted on instead of being molded.

Male dolls (identified by their boyish  hairstyles) are called Frozen Charlies.

Other places describe the dolls being used by ladies to stir and cool their hot tea and after they would be given to little girls to play with. Some historical articles say they are called ‘frozen’ because they are unjointed, with no moving parts to them.

A mystery tale, Frozen Charlottes was written by Priscilla Masters

Set in the medieval town of Shrewsbury, this is the third in the compelling ‘Martha Gunn’ series – When a woman arrives in A and E clutching a child in a pink blanket, Martha Gunn is not quite ready to make the discovery that the evening has in store for her. The baby is dead, and not only that, it has been mummified. Post mortem reveals the child to be a new born, deceased for over five years and, despite the mysterious woman’s protestations that it is called ‘poppy’, most certainly a boy. As always coroner Martha Gunn reserves judgement until she is able to get to the bottom of the case.

The dolls were popular in many places, including America and Australia. This video shows a Frozen Charlotte doll uncovered in 2002 during an archaeological dig of Casselden Place, part of an inner-city Melbourne block colloquially referred to as ‘Little Lon’.

An antique china doll from ca. 1913-1920.

A gift from Yzzy, born in 1913, for my dollhouse, about 3 inches [7.5 cm] tall. She isn’t a frozen Charlotte because her arms are jointed.

If you have such a doll, treasure it or put it on ebay. Some of those collectors are mad for them, even if they are broken. The one I have is not really a frozen charlotte as she has movable arms, but I love her sassy attitude. She was gifted to me by my mother-in-law Isabella, maysherestinpeace.

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8 Responses to Frozen Charlottes

  1. I’ve never heard of these before, but they look amazing – wish I had one! What a lovely little keepsake 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing these stories. At first, I thought you would talk about a frozen dessert called Charoltte. The doll stories are full of intrigue.

  3. vaterrell says:

    Very interesting stories, I too thought you were talking about a dessert! Glad that I kept reading. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Stella Scott says:

    O love stories like this! To get to know the roots of twists of the language is always intriguing to me. Thanks a lot! 🙂