Saturday, August 13, 2011

Delightfully Dark Finds


A Frozen Charlotte Doll Mourning Necklace 

This necklace, from Etsy shop, GhostLove Jewelry, is a solid sterling silver locket-style pendant hanging from a black velvet cord. The locket is in the shape of a coffin, with a cross on the lid, that opens to reveal a tiny Frozen Charlotte doll inside. This doll is an antique, as GhostLove Jewelry explains:

"This doll is part of a rare collection of porcelain bisque dolls excavated from the ruins of an old doll factory that operated between 1890 and 1913 in Thuringia, Germany. That makes them over 100 years old!"

You can see more from GhostLove Jewelry here.

"Frozen Charlotte" commonly refers to a doll, made from either china or bisque with immovable or "frozen" limbs, manufactured from about 1850 to 1920. The dolls ranged in size from an inch to 18 inches or more, and being charms in Christmas puddings, or occupants for doll houses, were amongst their many uses. 

The name is believed to have originated from an American folk ballad called
Fair Charlotte or Young Charlotte, by William Lorenzo Carter. The song was based upon a poem called A Corpse Going to a Ball, by Seba Smith, written around 1843. The poem and ballad are cautionary tales, thought to pertain to a true incident, about a girl called Charlotte who ignored her mother's request to cover her fine clothes with a blanket, and then froze to death on a snowy sleigh ride to a ball with her intended husband. The story was meant to discourage such vanity in young women.

This is part of the ballad:

They reached the place and Charles jumped out and held his hands for her, 

"Why sit you there like a monument, have you no power to stir?"
He asked her once, he asked her twice; she answered not a word. 

He asked her for her hand again, and yet she never stirred.


He took her hands within his own -- oh, God, they were cold as stone. 

He tore the mantle from her brow, the cold stars on her shone. 

Then quickly to the lighted hall her lifeless form he bore; 

Young Charlotte was a frozen corpse and never spoke no more.


He sat himself down by her side, and the bitter tears did flow, 

He said, "My dear intended bride, I never more shall know."
He threw his arms around her neck and kissed her marble brow
And his thoughts went back to the place where she said, "I'm getting warmer now."


He put the corpse into the sleigh and quickly hurried home, 

And when he reached the cottage door, oh, how her parents mourned! 

They mourned for the loss of their daughter dear, and young Charlie mourned for his bride, 

He mourned until his heart did break, and they slumber side by side.


You can see the rest of the ballad here.

15 comments:

  1. I use a lot of the Frozen Charlottes in my art and I love them and the history behind them!

    Wishing you a wonderful day,
    LuLu~*xoxo

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  2. I love it! Awesome! It's the history and the story that really sells this item and sets it apart from the pack.

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  3. It is a fascinating piece and the story is even more intriguing. I also checked out the shop and my gf fell in love with the other jewelry so I see money leaving my wallet in the future most likely :)

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  4. Well, I learned something from your post! I'd never heard of Frozen Charlottes before. It's a depressing poem, but a good lesson. You should see the women running around without coats in the dead of winter here! Wisconsin winters are not fun either. They should read this poem and try bundling up. :) I can't wait to see what else is in this Etsy shop!

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  5. Great history and fantastic piece of jewelry.

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  6. Hi LuLu,

    Yes, I remembered that you used a couple of Charlottes in that gorgeous collage that you made. I just went back and had a look at it. (http://coastalsistersnews.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-favorite-things-art-event-in.html). You even have a dark Charlotte! From my research, I understand that the black ones are even rarer.

    Hi Cullan,

    Yes, I love it, too! It was this necklace that got me interested in finding out the history of the Frozen Charlottes.

    Hi Slowdeath,

    That's funny! At least you know what to get her for her birthday, now!!

    Hi Justine,

    I haven't known about them for too long, either. In my research on Frozen Charlottes, I did discover that they were used historically in Australia as charms in Christmas puddings. I suspect that they weren't called "Frozen Charlottes", though. I think that may be a particularly American name for them. Other names I came across were "penny dolls", "solid chinas", "bathing babies", and "pillar dolls".

    Yes, I bet Wisconsin winters are chilly!! My mother used to talk about "girls freezing for fashion" - I wonder if that is a trickled down saying that originated with the 'Young Charlotte' cautionary tale?

    Hi Adsila,

    I know! The history of the piece just gives it a whole other dimension, doesn't it?!

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  7. I love the locket and the song. They are both quite lovely.

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  8. As a collector of antique dolls I find this post particularly intriguing! I must have this! Thanks for the post!

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  9. Hi Jessica,

    Yes, I love the song, too, and I would never have discovered the song without stumbling across the locket first. Definitely serendipity!

    Hi Robin,

    This little dolly is causing a lot of reaction and conversation both on and off the blog world. She is very captivating!

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  10. Hello again! So, how does it work with the Christmas puddings? I'm guessing that if you're the one to find the Charlotte, you get good luck for the year or something like that? Yeah, I'm guessing that the people who hid these in puddings weren't calling them Frozen Charlottes. :)

    Maybe that saying came from the poem, although I bet there are lots of other tales of girls freezing in the winter for this reason! Yeah, I always have to laugh when I'm bundled up under like 10 layers of coats, scarves, and hats and then I see a girl in just a little jacket walk by!

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  11. Hi Justine,

    It was traditional in Britain (and Australia) in the past to cook silver coins into a Christmas pudding so that everyone would find a treat in their bowl during dessert. I imagine that the tiny dolls may have just been an alternative to coins for little girls.

    I know that when coins were no longer made from real silver, they weren't cooked into the pudding anymore but were placed in the bowl during serving. I didn't ever like Christmas pudding anyway, but I do remember my mother putting some (clean!) coins into a bowl of ice-cream for me on Christmas day when I was really young. That tradition has disappeared now because of the choking hazard.

    Actually, the whole tradition seems to have been fraught with danger. Haha. There was contamination from alloy metal coins, broken teeth, choking... I guess if you survived the pudding you really were pretty lucky!!

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  12. Wow. That does sound dangerous! The thought of breaking a tooth came to mind, but I didn't think about a person choking on one of these or getting sick from the metal coins. Haha! Yeah, you're right - it would be a sign of luck to get one of these prizes and survive the meal. :)

    I enjoyed learning about this!

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  13. Yes, I enjoyed learning about the wee Frozen Charlottes, as well!

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  14. All the designs are in one place now, separate from my design blog. http://kreepygirldesigns.blogspot.com/

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  15. Thanks, Cullan! I'll head on over there!

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