Have You Ever Heard of a Frozen Charlotte Doll?
Frozen Charlotte is a name used to describe a specific form of china or porcelain doll made from the 1850s to as late as 1920. It was first manufactured in Germany in 1850 and sold as the perfect playmate for baby’s bath time. It was a small pottery doll made from one piece of unglazed porcelain with no moveable limbs – pale white with painted on hair and eyes with rosy cheeks and lips. The dolls range in height from just over one inch to just over three inches.
For some reason, the doll soon became associated with a popular poem written by humorist Seba Smith. It was published in 1843 in The Rover, a newspaper here in Maine. It recounted the grim tale of a young woman who froze to death on New Year’s Eve in 1839 while out riding in an open sleigh with her beau, which was reported in an article on February 8, 1840 in the New York Observer.
The poem in turn inspired a folk song about the incident. The song has been attributed to a couple of different song writers, but was probably written by William Lorenzo Carter in 1912.
So what had been intended as an innocent bath-time toy began to be sold often with its own coffin and blanket/shroud. In Britain, the dolls were even baked into a pudding or cake. The dolls were insanely popular, yet only cost a penny a piece back in the 1800s. Today, a single Frozen Charlotte doll can be as much as $200 or more.
“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.”
Presque Isle Historical Society actually boasts a set of Frozen Charlotte dolls in its collection. These will be on display in the new Maysville Museum scheduled to open at 165 Caribou Road in Presque Isle on Saturday, July 1.