Frozen Charlotte

By Tisa Loewen, Archaeology Intern

As the archaeology intern here at Historic Huguenot Street, I clean, organize, and numerically catalog the archaeological collection stored on site. While much of what I find is fragments of Dutch pottery, glass, and metals, occasionally I find less numerous pieces like Native American lithics.

Recently I found an interesting artifact while cataloging the children’s Camp Huguenot dig from 2006 – this Frozen Charlotte/Charlie, pictured below. These were called “penny” dolls and were primarily manufactured in Germany from 1840-1920. What is most striking is the story behind these little porcelain one-piece dolls. Typically 4 to 6 inches in height, it is believed that the dolls come from a popular 1840’s poem that was later made into a song, Fair Charlotte. The poem warns of venturing out into the cold winter night without bundling up tight on the way to a New Year’s ball (partial variant included below).

charlotte

Because porcelain is a poor conductor of heat, little porcelain dolls like this were baked into cake and Christmas pudding “thus leaving the luckiest child to find a prize when biting into the cake.” It is also thought that they were also stirred in tea to cool it down. Primarily however, they were inexpensive dolls for children to play with.
Found in the same context as this little Frozen doll were a slate pencil, pencil graphite, and a small button, possibly once belonging to a child as well.

Fair Charlotte, Seba Smith

“Her gloves and bonnet being on, she stepped into the sleigh
And away they rode by the mountain side and it’s o’er the hills and away
There’s music in those merry bells as o’er the hills we go
What a creaking noise those runners make as they strike the frozen snow
And muffled faces silent are as the first five miles are passed
When Charles with few and shivering words the silence broke at last

‘What a dreadful night it is to ride. My lines I scarce can hold’
When she replied in a feeble voice, ‘I am extremely cold’
Charles cracked his whip and urged his team far faster than before
Until at length five other miles in silence were passed o’er
‘Charlotte, how fast the freezing ice is gathering on my brow’
When she replied in a feeble voice, ‘I’m getting warmer now’

And away they ride by the mountain side beneath the cold starlight
Until at length the village inn and the ballroom are in sight
When they drove up, Charles he got out and offered her his hand
‘Why sit you there like a monument that hath no power to stand?’
He asked her once, he asked her twice but she answered not a word
He offered her his hand again, but still she never stirred”

Sources:

Engmann, Rachel. “Ceramic Dolls and Figurines, Citizenship and Consumer Culture in Market Street Chinatown, San Jose.” March 21, 2007. Stanford.edu.

Porcelain Doll from Dauphin County.” This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology. The State Museum of Pennsylvania/Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Russell, Nancy. “Frozen Charlotte doll a cool find.” May 3, 2012. Columbia Daily Tribune.

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CAPE-able Women

By Zachary Rousseas

The week’s object is a beautiful cape dating to the later 19th century. The cape is green velvet around the collar, shoulders, and down the center. Throughout the cape there is very elaborate beadwork and embroidery on the front and back sides. It is a mixture of hand and machine stitched. There is a hook and eye closures in the front of the cape and the pocket on the side. Elaborate capes such as this were considered both stylish and controversial.

hhscape

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Capes and cloaks were a fashion staple throughout the western world for centuries. During the time of the Civil War, it became trendier for cloaks and capes to be a shorter length and to be adorned with tassels, beads, and braids. This cape is telling of its time because of its frivolous style.

This piece is important because it came from a time of contention around women’s clothing. Women’s advocacy in the 19th century was based around a multitude of issues, from temperance, equitable pay, suffrage, and even dress reform. Many women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, argued that much of the clothing that was socially normal to wear for women limited their movement, and needed to be replaced. Eventually women abandoned this issue in pursuit of other advocacy, such as suffrage. Women still hoped that with the growth in equal education during this time, they would abandon frivolous fashion in pursuit of more honorable interests.