Found objects: frozen charlotte

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A couple of years ago my husband and I bought a small run-down worker’s cottage, built approx 1850, in Brentford, Middlesex. We renovated it ourselves, with our own hands, taking it back to brick, replacing everything including floors and ceilings and it’s fair to say we got to know the house pretty well during this process. Replacing the floors downstairs, we found ourselves standing 3 foot under floor level, on clay coloured soil, rebuilding sleeper walls, leveling off new floor joists. I thought I’d share some of our findings, but then this week I came across something special, and this little lady (or  chap) has become the focus of my first instalment of found objects.

Digging in the garden I often find small tubular shaped clay pipes. I discovered at the archaeological dig at Syon House last year that these are the remains of smokers’ pipes made by the William Heath clay pipe factory which was based on Brentford High Street in the 1730s. These little pipes are quite common in gardens in the area. Here’s some more info:

http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/local-history/industries-and-crafts/the-brentford-clay-pipe-kiln/

This week whilst gardening I found the dear little doll you see above. She was about the same size as these pipes, but obviously a lot more special.

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..glazed on the front but not on the back, as if by mistake, she stands at just 1 inch high with a delicately painted face and rouged cheeks

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Wikipedia was able to shed some light on the history. It seems that these little dolls were called ‘frozen charlotte’ and they were popular with children around 1850-1920.

The name comes from an American folk ballad called Fair Charlotte which tells of a young girl called Charlotte who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride with her boyfriend in fear it would cover up her pretty dress. Tragically she froze to death during the journey!

The Frozen Charlotte doll is made in the form of a standing, naked figure moulded all in one piece. These dolls may also be seen described as pillar dollssolid 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.

Frozen Charlotte dolls were popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. They were known as penny dolls because they were often sold for a cent. Frozen Charlotte dolls represented the ideal that girls should not be vain.

They are also made in bisque, and can come in white, pink-tinted, or, more rarely, painted black. Some rare examples have moulded chemises. Male dolls (identified by their boyish hairstyles) are called Frozen Charlies.

A little bit of history mystery solved…?

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One thought on “Found objects: frozen charlotte

  1. What an interesting thing to find! It is neat to think of the child (or children) that may have played with this adorable little figurine. And quite an opposite, I think from modern toys. This one’s purpose is to remind girls not to be vain, however, any trip to a modern toy store (or its Barbie aisle) shows that girls have little choice but to be reminded of how important their looks are.

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