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Frozen Charlotte Doll Artifact Highlight #35

This little Frozen Charlotte doll was donated to our collection in 1949. She is made of white bisque porcelain and is a little over four inches tall. She has delicate painted features, rosy cheeks, and blond hair. Her arms are bent out at the elbows and her legs are straight.

She has gilt shoes and green stocking ribbons painted on her feet. She is wearing white undergarments. The doll does not have any manufacturer’s marks.

Young women standing in snow. Circa 1890-1900. Golden Drift Historical Society Collection, PCM Collection

The doll is named for the heroine of a ballad titled “Fair Charlotte” and a poem composed in 1843 by Seba Smith titled “A Corpse Going to a Ball,” a cautionary tale that exposes the dangers of vanity and not listening to your parents.

Two women in winter coats, Circa 1890-1900 PCM Collection.

In the story, Fair Charlotte and her sweetheart, Young Charlie, went to a holiday ball in an open sleigh. The night was freezing, and Charlotte was urged by her mother to cover herself with a blanket. Wanting to show off her beautiful dress, Charlotte refused and froze to death on the way to the ball.

Frozen Charlotte dolls were mass-produced in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Germany, Japan, and US.

Blue Rapids Times December 11 1908

They came in various sizes and styles and were often made of china, terra cotta, composition, and celluloid. Most were sold undressed and sometimes came in caskets. Some of the smallest dolls were sold for as little as a penny and were known as “penny dolls.” They were also used as party favors and cake decorations, baked into cakes for good luck.

The doll was donated to our collection by Leila Meredith of Sacramento. Leila (Delome Trent) Meredith was born in 1880 in Montana. In 1909 she married James Meredith in Auburn. James Meredith was a native of Grass Valley and a lawyer who practiced in Auburn and later in Sacramento. He was also the editor and publisher of the Sacramento Union between 1921-1925. He was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1940. Leila Meredith died in 1950 in Sacramento. Her husband died in 1963.

This Frozen Charlotte doll is displayed annually as part of the Victorian Christmas exhibit at the Bernhard Museum.