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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