Frozen Charlotte Figurine

May 02, 2016 Posted by: David R. Daly
A Frozen Charlotte figurine found during an archaeological dig on the Longfellow property.

Found during an archeological dig on site in 1990, this small bisque china doll was popularly known as a "Frozen Charlotte" doll.

Frozen Charlotte dolls were popular in the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Mostly manufactured in Germany, they were produced in a variety of sizes ranging from less than an inch tall to over a foot and a half long. The one pictured here measures two inches high. The size of the doll is often a good indicator as to its intended purpose. Larger examples were often used in the manner of a traditional doll, as a plaything. Some were even designed to be brought into the bath with a child as they could float on their backs and would not be damaged by water. Smaller sizes were commonly inserted into cakes or puddings as charms, in much the same fashion as a Mardi Gras king cake which traditionally has a baby figurine hidden inside; to find it afforded the discoverer promises of future prosperity.

The Frozen Charlotte doll derived its name from an American folk song about a young woman named Charlotte who, in her vain desire to not cover up the pretty dress she was wearing while on a cold winter sleigh ride to a local dance, froze to death before arriving at the event. The song was itself based on a poem by American writer Seba Smith, who first published the poem in a Maine newspaper in 1843. His poem was in turn inspired by an account published in a New York newspaper in 1840 detailing just such an incident. The doll's coloration is sometimes believed to be a reflection of the young lady's frosty demise.

Smith, like Longfellow, was a graduate of Bowdoin College. Although we have no evidence of a friendship between the two Maine natives, Longfellow did correspond with Smith's wife Elizabeth Oakes, whom he knew from his childhood in Portland. Longfellow was still exchanging letters with her as late as 1876.

Last updated: May 2, 2016

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