Death in the Victorian Era part 12: Frozen Charlotte
“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,
Frozen Charlotte (and later Frozen Charlie) was doll first made around the 1850’s in Germany that became wildly popular in the USA. Its original intent was to be a child’s bath toy, the doll, made from a single piece of unglazed porcelain, with no moving limbs, and sometimes painted on facial features and hair was usually totally white. There were some variations, with a few dolls having an unglazed stoneware back, enabling the doll to float on its back in the bath tub.
Smaller versions of the doll were often hidden inside Christmas Puddings (can you imagine biting down on one!?), or worn as charms. They could also be made in bisque and come in white, pink or (rarely) black, and are extremely collectable.
They became even more popular after a poem titles “Young Charlotte” , written by Seba Smith in 1840, became popular. The poem recounted the true story of a young girl who had frozen to death on New years Night whilst riding in her sweethearts open sleigh. She had failed to take her Mothers Advice to rug up, and paid the ultimate price.
“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 popularity only grew further when Smiths poem inspired folk the song, “Fair Charlotte” (see the top of the page).
Later Frozen Charlie would appear to appease the need for boys to have a similar doll. Some of the dolls would come in small coffin shaped packages, and these particular Victorian Era dolls are worth a pretty penny today, which is an interesting comparison, considering , back in the day, they were often referred to as “Penny Dolls”, as that is what they cost to buy!
Next Week: Death in the Victorian Era part 13: Victorian Funeral Keepsakes